Point of Diminishing Returns?
From www.beginnertriathelete.com, food for thought, to remember.
I enjoy working with beginners as much as my elite athletes. Actually, I enjoy working with any athlete that has the right attitude and puts forth 100%, but a beginner may see amazing increases in fitness in a relatively short period of time. One of my newbies went from a completely deconditioned state, to running a 10 min. mile, and then progressed to a sub-7 minute mile age grouper in a single season. That is a lot of progress for a 40 year old athlete. At this point in a beginner’s training, I have to give my “don’t get used to it” speech to set a reasonable level of expectation moving forward. One thing is for certain – the faster you get, the harder it is to get faster.
When starting a training program from a deconditioned state, virtually any training stress will produce results. Endurance is the first thing that needs to be addressed, and simply completing a short race should be the primary goal. A beginner should move in a gradual and progressive manner towards their first race. Many make the mistake of doing too much too soon or training randomly, and thus begins the learning process regarding over-use injuries. Using a beginner training plan goes a long way towards preventing this experience.
A great many athletes are happy to stay at this level of fitness, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But if an athlete desires progression, then strength, power, aerobic capacity, and lactate threshold training must be judiciously incorporated into their training plan. This requires a more specific and precise training program, and the faster the athlete becomes, the more precise and effective it must be to produce speed. Continued growth will entail either a great deal of knowledge and expertise on the part of the athlete, or the retention of someone with that knowledge and expertise.
At this point economy may become a major limiter as well, and an athlete will plateau without addressing this often overlooked discipline. An athlete that runs at 160 strides per minute, mashes the pedals, and claws through the water may become more fit, but it will become difficult to translate this fitness into actual speed.
Is there a point of diminishing returns? At some point, age catches up with us all. In general, as we age, VO2 max decreases, body fat increases, and muscular strength drops off. But these can all be mitigated to an extent with proper training. In some cases, athletes can still perform at an elite level into their 40’s. We have all witnessed those old salts beating the spandex off of athletes 20 years their junior. I coach a 55 year old athlete that is still setting PR’s. It is very unusual to find an athlete that does not have a limiter that can be worked on. How far can you take your training? No one really knows what their true potential is, but there is only one way to find out. The real fun is getting there.
Matt Russ has coached and trained elite athletes from around the country and internationally for over ten years. He currently holds expert licenses from USA Triathlon and USA Cycling, and is a licensed USA Track and Field Coach. Matt is head coach and owner of The Sport Factory, and works with athletes of all levels full time. He is a freelance author and his articles are regularly featured in a variety of magazines such as Inside Triathlon and Triathlete. Visit www.thesportfactory.com for more information or email him at email@example.com