Why do amateur athletes train and train and train and season after season fail to make significant lasting progress, fail to improve dramatically? Because they repeat period after period of HIIT, as opposed to using HIIT to peak after repeated extensive periods of base training.
A base can grow a peak, but a peak cannot grow a base.
HIIT is meant for peaking, not to build a base, and no amount of HIIT can or will grow a base.
HIIT occurs at intensity levels at an RPE of 8 or above, it is training to peak for competition, it is not base training.
Base training occurs at intensity levels from RPE 1 to 7. Base training develops athletic ability: technique, skill, form, efficiency, aerobic condition, recoverability, endurance, and the ability to burn fat.
No matter how many sessions of HIIT, no matter how many years of HIIT, athletes who only train using HIIT methodology max out quickly, unable to progress beyond a point. Instead of training, athletes end up beating themselves into a pulp (often with the help of their coach), swinging from cortisal/adrenalin induced beast mode highs to lows when the post party crash sets in. Never believing that their training is the root source of their problems, these athletes will modify everything but their training in pursuit of their goals riding an endless rollercoaster of ups and downs without experiencing significant year over year progress, nor their potential.
HIIT is inappropriate for technique, FUNdamental training, skill and form development.
Why? Because to develop a skill, to learn something, anything, requires a state of mind which is peaceful, calm, non-threatened, hence able to receive information, process it, play with it and experiment with it to figure out how to apply it. Exertion at an RPE of 8-10 is exhilarating, it is stimulating, it even comes with a sense of invincibility but it doesn’t set the body, mind or emotions in a state of openness, of calm, of ease, ready to learn. HIIT is focused on doing, and doing as much as possible, as fast as possible, as hard as possible, until exhaustion. HIIT occurs at the top end of the heart rate curve, practicing to hold on a bit more, with a bit more power, a bit more speed. Its all-out training, and all-out training is incongruent with skill development.
FUNdamental training, just like it sounds, needs to be FUN, and is FUN. FUNdamental training is focused on learning at the pace and level of the individual, with sufficient time to stop to problem solve, to slow down and experiment. FUNdamental training needs no pace clock, no split times, it doesn’t even a need a workout, just a lesson plan of skills and drills. Improvement is measured in efficiency, smoothness, fluidity, ease of movement, and ease of effort.
FUNdamental training is possible only when RPE is low, when there is no stress placed on the athlete to perform, when the athlete is in a state that they can give themselves permission to relax, to enjoy, and learn. No one learns in a state of panic, of threat, of stress. No one learns when expectations are for a peak effort to be delivered with every rep. In this frame of mind, your mind is not set to develop new neural pathways, to memorize motor programs of technique; your mind in its reactive state is focused only on self preservation, its in survival mode.
If you refer back to the posts titled ‘All Bout the Base’ [links are in the Blog Library] and review the base training of consistent peak performers, you will find a pattern: growing up they all played a sport or a variety of sports. These athletes amassed thousands of FUNdamental training hours. In most cases, top athletes played their way to the top; they trained without knowing it. When it came time to join a structured training program, a team, a club, or when they started to receive coaching, they had years and years of base training which was focused into performance. Many of today’s top athletes were excelling as age group athletes because of the base they developed having FUN… playing sharks & minnows in the pool all summer long, playing tag in the forest or jungle, running to/from school, cycling as long as the sun was shining. No one counts laps, minutes, hours, reps when playing, it’s just pure and simple FUN.
FUNdamental training – base training – is what separates the top consistent peak performers from everyone else.
Trying to rush to the top too quick, rushing to compete too soon, rushing to test performance prematurely, yields one outcome: a quick trip up, and an even quicker trip back down.
The ‘J’ curves (regular and reverse) of exercise intensity are correlated to upper respiratory tract infections and cardiovascular dysfunction in adults.
The ‘J’ curves in kids – who as a function of their youth typically do not develop cardiovascular impairments – are imho correlated with the drop out rate from sport, with injury, with burn out, with kids coming to hate a sport (or performing art) they once loved. It leads kids to giving up on dreams of being on the National team, of making it to the Olympics.
Richard Williams, father of Venus and Serena, prevented his daughters from competing, withholding them from tournaments for as long as possible. Even when they were permitted to compete, he did so reluctantly, hesitating, and when he did permit them he still second guessed whether it was too soon. He wanted them to remain in the lower ½ of the LTAD model pyramid for as long as possible, and the results speak for themselves: the consistency and longevity of winning by Venus and Serena speaks loudly. They are Olympians, they are repeat winners of Grand Slam events, and are ranked consistently in the top spots if not in the #1 position amongst all tennis players.
Remain at the bottom of the LTAD pyramid for as long as possible, allow your kids and/or yourself the time to fall in love with a sport. Take the time to start with FUNdamentals, learn training principles, develop proper technique, form and set a goal to develop all skill sets. Give your kids and yourself the permission to take the time, hours upon hours and year after year of training, before rushing to the HIIT, to all out efforts.
This doesn’t mean racing or competing is off limits, absolutely not. In fact, competing without HIIT allows athletes to practice executing skills in competition, instead of constantly focusing on outcomes of time or position. It offers athletes the opportunity to learn how to approach competition in a relaxed focused manner. When performance expectations occur with the first meet, the first event… it sets athletes up for failure in the long term. Too heavy a weight prematurely on a novice will not encourage them onwards, in many cases the weight will be sufficient to extinguish flames of belief, drive, and any imagination filled with ‘what ifs’.
After years and years of base training, when it comes time to peak, time to perform HIIT in preparation for competition, they will be unable to unseat you… like Serena Williams in singles, like Serena and Venus in tennis doubles play, like swimmers Michael Phelps, Dara Torres, Natalie Coughlin, like Tiger Woods, like triathletes Dave Scott, Mark Allen, Paula Newby Fraser, Natascha Badmann, Chrissie Wellington, like track stars Jackie Joyner Kersee and Usain Bolt, like MMA fighter Georges St Pierre, and legends such as Bruce Lee… they won, and won, and continued to win and continue to be remembered as champions.
Top athletes are those who were given permission, or permitted themselves to fall in love with a sport.
It’s the width of the base which decides who wins and wins and wins leaving behind a legacy. The heights which these champions reach is not because they reached higher than anyone else, its because they trained a base wider than anyone else.