There is only one path to peak performance…
Its a long slow detailed process – which requires a time lapse recording – in order for the entire process to be visualized within a reasonable period of time. At the outset, what is being built cannot be identified from the base. In fact, in many cases the base itself often requires a foundation, and that foundation requires massive footings, cornerstones, or other support structures to be installed. These structures take significant time to construct, making the building process seem outlandish in duration, but to the builder seeking engineering excellence these are non-negotiable. The builder knows that at completion, it is the base that allows a structure to withstand all forms of stress… earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, even a tsunami. Cutting any corners at the start will shorten the structures life, and at the worst will doom it to a structural failure, even total collapse.
It is no different in health, with fitness, and in the pursuit of peak performance: cut corners at the start, and you will not have a worthy finish, perhaps no finish at all.
The construction process moves back and forth, as if to cover the exact same piece of foundation time and time again with progress barely noticeable. The time it takes to complete the foundation seems endless, the repetition, the consistency, the perseverance required to remain focused, to hold to the architectural plans require determination, faith, belief, and drive.
This is no different then children in elementary school learning the 3 Rs, or in basic athletic programs developing physical literacy, FUNdamanetals, or in the arts gaining an appreciation of the musical alphabet, scales, chords and key signatures. For years, children learn but you cannot predict what the career of any individual child will be. For years, children gain physical abilities but you cannot predict the sport to which they will apply their skills. For years, children refine an ear, an eye, their sense of balance, of movement but you cannot predict the type of music they will write, the form of dance which will capture them, or the art medium they will use to express themselves.
Attempts to short circuit the process do not work. You cannot force, coerce, manipulate a child to mature into becoming an aerospace engineer, an Olympic gymnast, a virtuoso at the piano ahead of schedule, much to the chagrin of parents, teachers, and coaches.
Attempts to short circuit the learning curve leads to physical injury, mentally to burn out, and emotionally to a max out, rendering the child spent before they have even started. All to often, it is well meaning parents, teachers and coaches who gamble the long term potential a child could enjoy if allowed to peak at their physiological and psychological peak (typically in early 20s), but due to the need for short term results, push and push until their child breaks.
The champion development process starts from a base, not the peak. Building a base takes years and years; the process demands thousands and thousands of mindful repetitions so technique is executed precisely from subconscious direction, freeing the conscious mind to flow in the moment of performance. The process builds slowly upon itself, snowballing so that the physiological and psychological changes take deep deep roots, so new growth is always built on a well reinforced stable level which sits upon another structurally sound level, and so on.
Based on the articles found on your typical running, cycling, swimming, triathlon website, in your average health and fitness magazine, in the attitude of your average amateur athlete and coach, there is another way… its called Hi Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and it is proclaimed to be the short cut of short cuts to achieving all your health, fitness and performance goals.
In theory, even in research, the concept makes sense. Short bursts of hi intensity efforts performed with recovery periods of varying periods yield results. Strength, endurance, power, even calories burned all arrive with significant change with only a few sessions.
In practice, the concept seems to make even more sense. The goal and plan are laid out start to finish. The resources required to achieve the goal to fulfill the plan are acquired, connected, and then using as much force as possible, a full-out effort is made to bringing the goal to its full height, to its fruition. Relying not on structure, nor skill or technique, but depending solely on force, an attempt is made to cause the goal to happen.
Based on this, who wouldn’t use HIIT to achieve their fitness, health and performance goals? Its the best of all worlds, isn’t it? In no time – especially when compared to building a base over years and years – being able to set and achieve a goal in weeks, what could possible be wrong or go wrong with this short cut of all short cuts?
This is where the literature, the research, the articles on HIIT fall silent. No one discusses the consequences to HIIT, the cost of HIIT is swept under the carpet as if it matters not. Isn’t it amazing how ambition blinds vision.
HIIT – Hi Intensity Interval Training – and its yet to be publicly known alter ego, HIIL – Hi Intensity Interval Living – were once exclusive to the top of the top athletes. These training methods were reserved for those who had already trained for a decade at a minimum, whose physiology and psychology was rooted deeply in countless hours of training, who were approaching major competition and were seeking the final piece, the edge, to win.
The mindset is that If it works for the pros, then surely it must work for everyone else. Indeed, HIIT works, but what is not mentioned, what is left out of the conversation is that HIIT was always a temporary, final, topping to years and years and years of training, a last effort to peak a peak, to fine-tune, to sharpen the athletes already razor edges to a diamond finish.
HIIT was never the primary means to training, but today in our pursuit of immediate results and instant gratification, the attraction of HIITs instant outcomes is simply to sugary sweet not to be manipulated into the trend of how to achieve instant fitness, instant health, instant results.
If you want to build something that lasts like the pyramids, then there is no alternative but to build a base, and continue building base and base and base, and allow for the tip to build itself, because all pyramids eventually peak. Upon that peak, you can always elevate a flag post.
If you want to waste your time, your effort, and sacrifice your health, your well-being, in a futile attempt at photoshoping onto yourself the appearance of health, giving yourself a spray tan of fitness, then HIIT is the way to go.
To learn more about base training, and the risks of HIIT, see the Blog Library.