If you’re like me, you’ve probably packed for a vacation, lugged your baggage around with you, and then found you didn’t use or wear about 1/2 of what you brought. When you’ve got the excess capacity, taking a few extra things with you isn’t a bad idea; better safe than sorry. But dragging the kitchen sink along can be a big mistake when you need to stay “light, lean, and lethal.” This is as true in training as in everyday life.
I’ve lived in or near a few “touristy” places in my life, including Washington, DC and Tampa, FL. What always struck me was that the people who lived there all the time rarely did any of the “fun” stuff that other people went out of their way to do. Most locals I knew in DC had never been to the monuments downtown. Many of the locals I knew in Florida never went to the beach. Why not? Too much trouble. Hard to park, too expensive, too crowded… too much baggage. Often, those who went were discouraged from going back by the negative experience of dragging around coolers, backpacks, lawn chairs… all the stuff you “needed” to make the trip. Baggage. It kept them from enjoying the life around them.
Training often has excess baggage, too. Too many “junk miles” that we think we have to run or ride in order to prepare for a race. Extra supplements, “nutrition” for the long workout, specialty hydration products… just too much baggage. In moderation, they probably have their place. Taken to extreme, they can keep you from enjoying the process of training. When it becomes too much trouble to go for a long run because of all the preparation it takes, maybe you’ve crossed the line. This is really a danger for “age groupers” like me, who might lack natural ability and will grasp for anything to get a bit more of an edge.
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve read about training, especially for triathlon, came from coach Joe Friel. He advises his athletes to train the minimum amount necessary to improve with each workout and eventually achieve their goals. Some might call this lazy… I call it smart. Whether I’m training for a half marathon, a full, or just running for fitness, I run no more than 4 times per week. The size of the goal dictates the intensity of the 4 workouts. Every workout has a specific purpose. No junk miles. It’s the same with cycling. I ride three times a week. One short recovery ride, one hill workout, and one long ride. Each one is designed for a purpose. Any more than that (for me), and it starts to eat into my other priorities and risk injury.
Now that I’m getting back into the pool, I’ve pondered how much to swim. Honestly, when I had to stop last fall, I was probably swimming more than I needed to. The result was a hesitancy to invest that much time in going to the pool for the workout. While most “real” swimmers would scoff at my short workouts now, they fit my current life’s demands. Less baggage.
So, what’s the key to avoiding excess baggage? Keep it simple. As Joe Friel says, do what you need to do to meet your goals… no more, no less. Don’t pick up someone else’s baggage of excess miles, special formulas, or extreme demands… the challenge may sound enticing, but odds are you’ll wind up burned out or injured by trying to live someone else’s life. Hmm, I guess that’s not just training advice, is it?