Jan 19, 2021 – Modifications

Hi Everyone!


What I’ve been thinking about this week is knowing when your process is not getting you towards your goal. I think many of us, as gritty, A-type personalities, can sometimes become attached to certain processes, and become unable to move away from them, even when they aren’t working. A system that once worked may not always work, and sometimes some smart modifications can actually help us get to where we want to go. Harder isn’t always better or more productive.


Let me give you an example as it pertains to running.  You’ve been prescribed an interval workout of 5-6 x 800 at 5K race pace with 90 seconds recovery. The purpose of the workout is to get you running a certain volume at that race pace for those specific physiological and neurological adaptations. Now in execution, let’s say you come in a little tired, or under-recovered from your last hard effort. Your first 800 is on pace but it feels harder than usual. In your second 800 you start falling off pace. Now is the time to make a decision. Do you A) grind through the max number of reps even as you’re falling off pace because you’ve set in your mind that you always ‘complete the workout’ or B) shorten the reps to 600’s or even 400’s and extend the rest so that you can stay on pace? The answer as a coach (and I have done this and seen this done many times with athletes) is B. If the purpose of the workout was to simulate race pace running, doing more volume at a slower pace is wasted energy and working counter to your goal. We modify the process so that we can get to a similar result.


Similarly, certain training and programs that worked once, may not always work the same way again. You can’t just replicate what you once did to bring you success – you are a different person now. Every new goal requires a new process. I was listening about Saif Saheen, the world record holder in the steeple-chase who was coached by the famous Renato Canova. His yearly mileage steadily increased over many years until his last and best years when it came down again. When asked why, Canova replied “because he didn’t need that anymore”. The process that had worked for him and gotten him there was no longer what he needed to excel.


Coaches know the purposes of the workouts and know when you have to make a modification so that we can get the best training effect given the circumstances. Because there is never a program where every run and every workout is executed exactly as written over a season, and because humans and life are unpredictable, the best coaches are often the best modifiers. They know how to get the best results given the person and the circumstances.


This is coaching 101. What I was thinking about was how this applies to the rest of our lives in areas where we don’t have someone to tell us when we’re barking up the wrong tree. Many of us are very good at putting our heads down and following our plans and we can easily forget to re-evaluate what our purpose is and whether we are putting our energy in the right places. Remember: it’s ok and actually better to modify. The hardest path isn’t always the most productive path. If something feels hard or isn’t working, take some time to zoom out and evaluate what your purpose or goal is. Then, find a different way to get there. You’re not giving up – you’re modifying in a smart way!


Workouts for this week:

  1. 2 sets of 5-6 x 200 w 45 sec recovery (3 min bw sets) – run these quickly with good form and good turnover. This workout shouldn’t feel too aerobically taxing. It is a great one to work on neuromuscular connections, range of motion and good form. We all need a dose of these every now and then and I’ve been remiss in not including them often enough!
  2. 15 mins Hard. If you’re doing this as part of the team Power Hour. My plan is to do the 200’s on Weds and the 15 mins on Sat. Option for Sat is to do the 15 mins and then follow it up with 5-6 x 1 min on, 1 min off for a great fitness builder wrkt/tempo.(NOTE: if doing 15 min Hard, make sure you get in a good warm-up including good mobility and strides. You need to open up those pathways before launching right into it – I promise it will feel better!) Also, in terms of pacing, I would start out as if racing a 5K. Re-evaluate after the first 5 mins and if you can lean in a bit, go for it. Remember, this will be like a 5K without that brutal 3-4K point – instead that will be your finishing kick!
  3. If not doing the 15 min Hard, tempo option is 15 mins, 8 mins, 4 mins with 3 min easy (ha! Got you with the 15 mins anyway 😉 )


Ok, have fun everyone!