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Prerequisites for Adjusting your own Training

by Dr. Mike Israetel, Co-founder and Chief Sport Scientist | Aug 06, 2016

Prerequisites for Adjusting your own Training

Some of us hire coaches to do our training so that we can have the ease of just executing the plan instead of having to create it. Another benefit of hiring a coach is the offloading of the requirement of not just making your initial plan, but having to adjust it to your needs and responses as you progress. In fact, adjusting training to fit your continually changing needs, especially in small ways over the course of days and weeks to keep you on track is a very important phenomenon. So important, it has its own name. “Auto-regulation” is the process of adjusting training to fit needs as they arise, and a coach can be a big help with this process.

Yes, a coach can help adjust training to how you’re responding, but ultimately, no one is as in touch with your body and its states of change as YOU. Does this mean that you can potentially benefit greatly from adjusting your own training? Yes. But it also means that if you’re working with a coach, you can inform him/her that much more accurately and precisely about what’s happening to your body, and the changes you make together can be that much more beneficial to your overall progress. Any way you slice it, getting more in touch with your body’s responses is a benefit. Great, so what are we waiting for? Let’s get right to the adjusting! Not so fast. It turns out that there are a couple of prerequisites to adjusting your own training. If the adjustments are to guide your training onto a better and more beneficial course, your connection with your training needs to meet the basic criteria of at least 4 categories of knowledge and awareness. To the extent that these criteria are not met, your “adjustments” could be anything but, and may steer you even further off course into less productive or even regression-producing training. But to the extent that these criteria are met (and the more they are fulfilled past a basic level, the better), your training will become that much more streamlined, safer, and more effective. Let’s take a look at the 4 categories of knowledge/awareness and see how they can enhance your ability to adjust your training, with or without a coach.

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Adjustment Knowledge

We’ll keep this one really simple. If you are going to make adjustments to your training, you have to know what kind of adjustments to make! This generally means that you should have at least a rough understanding of the overload principle, the fatigue management principle, and the concept of MRV (maximum recoverable volume). Your adjustments should be made to make sure your training is just around that sweet spot that’s the most you can do to progress, but not so much training that you stall or regress. Once you know these concepts and how to apply them (when to add training volume/intensity, when to back off), the next ingredient is an awareness of how much stress you’re actually under so that you know which adjustments to make.

Awareness of Physiological State

How do you know if you’re getting beat up and it’s time to add difficulty to your training or if you’re on easy street and it’s time to ramp things up? Well, at the very least, you have to be aware of what your body is physiologically doing! Does your hunger rise or fall when you’re beat up? How do your joints feel? How do the weights feel… heavy or pretty light? How’s your sleep? All of these and other variables should be in your awareness so that you actually know how fatigued you are and if you’re ready for an increase, decrease, or maintenance of difficulty. If you can’t answer the question RIGHT NOW of “how fatigued from the training process am I at this moment? then you might not be quite ready to regulate your own training.

Self Honesty/Ego

This one is probably the simplest. In order to ramp up your training when the time comes, you’ve gotta have some guts and not be lazy or scared about it. On the other hand, if you’re ego is so big you always ramp up training because that’s WHAT A WARRIOR WOULD DO, then you’re going to grind yourself into a pulp sooner than later. Be honest with yourself about how you really feel, and go from there. This one especially takes practice, which brings us to our last category.

Experience

Auto-regulation is not for the beginner. Only with experience can you get proficient at getting a feel for your physiological states, being honest with yourself, and knowing what to do to proceed. Over months and years, you can develop an excellent connection with your body and mind. You can get VERY good at determining exactly what you need to adjust in your training, and when to stay the course.

If you’re looking to auto-regulate, with a coach or without, make sure you have these four categories in line at least to some extent with which you’re comfortable. From there, any auto-regulation will get better and better with time so long as you stay honest, keep acquiring knowledge about body systems and responses to training, and keep learning from past successes and mistakes.