-- Marathon Running Information, Coaching and Advice from Coach Joe English

Training — You Can’t Give More Than 100%

running-advice-bugGrrrr. . . I was in spin class this morning, and although I loved the instructor, she said something that rubbed me the wrong way. She’s actually just the latest in a series of spin instructors that has used similar language and I want to write about it today. In her most supportive and motivational way she shouted at the top of her lungs: “Come on guys, let’s give 110%!

Giving it your allBaah. 110%. Really? I get it. It’s supposed to mean “don’t leave anything on the table”, but we really cannot ask our bodies to give more than 100%. Giving 100% is plenty, believe me. If you are giving it your all, you don’t need to give more than that. The problem is often that we don’t give it our all, but going above and beyond that is simply beyond what we can truly ask our bodies to give.

Let me step back a minute and tell you another story. A few weeks ago, in yet a different spin class, the instructor starting playing this little trick on the class. He’d set us up for a sprint of a certain amount time — let’s just say 60 seconds. He’d say, “OK, here we go, give it everything you’ve got for 60 seconds!” And then at the end of the 60 seconds he’d say, “OK, keep it going class for another 30 seconds if you can!” ‘Wait a second’, I thought to myself. If I am pacing myself to give 100% for 60 seconds then I can’t go for another 30 seconds. That’s 50% more than the amount of the interval. I SHOULDN’T have anything left at the end of the 60 seconds to give if I had already given it my all. That ‘well’ should be dry. Tapped out. If I can pull another 30 seconds out of that well then I wasn’t pacing myself right in the first place.

Am I splitting hairs here? Perhaps. But let’s think about this as a part of a more holistic approach to our lives. If we’ve constructed a good training plan for ourselves as athletes then that plan will have us working pretty hard and giving all that we have much of the time. There are times that we have to push ourselves and times that we can relax. The sum of the parts adds up to 100% — not more than 100%. If we’re giving more than 100% then we have a problem. Something doesn’t add up. Something will have to give.

So to have an attitude that has us shooting for greater than what we can actually achieve is self-defeating. I would argue that we should craft our thoughts and thinking in the following way: “give everything that you have today, but don’t lose sight of tomorrow and don’t forget about yesterday.” In other words, you want to find the balance that give as much as you can to optimize in your training life but keeps yourself in balance.

We need to try to visualize our training as a series of pieces that fit together as a whole. It’s your job to understand the whole picture as only you can. Where are you going? What is the importance of this particular workout for your training goals? What did you do yesterday and how tired are you today? What do you have on your training schedule tomorrow? How stressful is your work-life? How are you eating and sleeping? All of these questions need to be in the foreground of your thought-space when you are asking your body to produce for you. So when a spin instructor, running coaching or swimming coach yells at you to hit the gas, it is your job to understand how hard to push on that pedal.

You are the captain of your ship. You’re in command. You need to put yourself first. Just as on an airplane when you are instructed to put your own oxygen mask first, even before your child, you need to put your needs first. This is not about being selfish, it is about understanding the whole picture that only you can know.

Of course this is a lot for a spin instructor to yell at her class. Perhaps we’re asking too much to expect her to yell at us to look at the whole picture and keep things in balance.

Perhaps what she could say is the following: “Go hard, but not so hard that you’ll regret it later.”

Still too much? OK, how about “Give it your best here class, this is the important part of the workout.

Coach Joe English, Portland Oregon, USA
Running Advice and News


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