Possibly the single biggest myth circulating in the training world is the idea of going all out, all the time. If you ask the average person what percentage elite athletes train at, the most common answer will be: 100%
Why? Slogans, for one.
Always give it 100%
No days off!
All of these slogans have one thing in common: They will crush your athletic potential.
Myth #1: 100%
If you were to survey truly elite athletes who stay at the top of their sport for several years, you may be underwhelmed by the physical intensity level they bring to their practice. Most elite athletes spend far more time hanging out at around 60% than they do at 100% Why? NO ONE CAN SUSTAIN 100% EFFORT YEAR ROUND. If you think that you can, you aren’t giving 100%.
It is physiologically impossible. Yet walk into any gym in America and you will find plenty of gym rats crushing themselves trying to live up to what is effectively a myth. Why? Most likely because a commercial told them to.
Part of the problem is a myopic focus on physical drive when it comes to athletic training. There are many other systems we can “train” that will maximize our athleticism that go beyond just pushing strength and conditioning as hard as possible. Below are some examples.
- Balance training
- Sports vision
- Mindset training
- Reaction time
- Speed training
Myth #2: Never quit!
Part of the problem with this one is the perception of what “quitting” is. If you don’t like the term “quit” feel free to call it “bagging a bad lift” or “re-setting”. I’ll bundle this one in with the random embracing of potential death to achieve an arbitrary athletic goal. I often hear people say they would die to achieve something truly weird like a heavy deadlift or something else basically not worth dying for. Sure, I get that it’s hyperbole, but not everyone does. When we say things like that, I guarantee you someone out there takes it seriously, and we contribute to a growing culture that is turning exercise into an obsessive pursuit of tissue destruction versus a tool for health and wellness.
Myth #3: No days off!
This one is just nuts. I started seeing this from high school sports team via my clients. Apparently this is a big hashtag. #nodaysoff Either the coach has no grasp of how to actually train athletes, or he was just shouting a slogan and didn’t think everyone was going to take it literally. Either way, the idea of never taking a day off from training is not realistic. Yes, there are some outliers who can pull this off, but you aren’t them. It is important to remember that the physical change we are hoping to create from physical training actually occurs during rest. Strength improvements, hypertrophy, etc. all occur during rest not training. Training is the catalyst, but we require the other side of that equation: You must take days off! The problem with training young athletes is that they can handle a lot of abuse, and actually manage to improve despite it. The important part is realizing that they are not improving because of it.
It’s always interesting to me how things often end up being the exact reverse of what we thought they were supposed to be. If you have been beating the tar out of yourself, going 100% and not taking days off… you’re actually training like an average person, or what we might call an amateur.
On the other hand, if you train at maybe 60-70% most of the time, give your body a chance to rest and recover, and exercise proper judgement in not trying to push through what is obvioulsy a potentially bad lift or training session… you just might be on the road to being elite.