The Minimalist: Train Smarter and More Efficiently to Stay Healthy Longer

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By Aaron Moss

When I started coaching beginning triathletes and gave them their first training schedule, I expected to get a response like, “Do I have to do all of it?”

After all, looking at the weekly lineup of workouts, it appears burly in terms of total time spent training. However, this is split over swimming, biking and running—and depending on the time of the year and the individual, resistance training may be included. Thus, to consider it in terms of time per discipline, it’s substantially less daunting. So much less daunting that instead of the response I expected, the response I unanimously receive is: “That’s it?”

The difference is the perspective: I am looking at total time training as a measure of overall exertion or training burden, they are looking at it as time swimming, time running, etc.

Dubbed “The Minimalist” by my friends and fellow over-training athletes, the system I employ is remarkably simple. It is based on the idea that overall stress should be used as the measure of training, and that all training is causing stress on your body, even though it is composed of three different sports. In addition, it is important to consider the non-training stressors in your life like school, work, raising children, etc. Stress of all kinds—physical and psychological—should be considered when putting together a training package.

Failing to recognize the significant biochemical changes that occur in your body when you are psychologically experiencing stress can result in physical manifestations and injury. Intestinal nutrient absorption generally decreases. Our immune response decreases, and cortisol production increases. Blood sugar regulation changes, as does blood pressure regulation. Therefore, training volume must consider the additional non-training, psychological stress one experiences on a day-to-day basis. Of course, we can have the argument that training relieves psychological stress. Perhaps, but the biochemical response inside our bodies has already occurred.

Consider the following things when you develop your training plan:

Recognize that recovery—allowing your trained muscles/tissues time to heal—is more important than the training itself. Appropriate recovery does not necessarily mean a “day-off.”

Training less often with ambition towards competitive results REQUIRES that every single training/recovery session be thoughtfully designed and examined for efficiency.

Nutrition is key. If your training volume decreases, be aware of your caloric intake as well as the composition of those calories. Should it be the same?

Proper technique can not be over-emphasized!!! If you are training with poor technique, training less often with poor technique could be disastrous. CONSULT AN EXPERT before you decide to be a minimalist.

Based on my experience and the experiences of those around me, it seems clear that we are capable of performing at an equally high level with somewhat less training volume. The result: staying competitive year after year without serious injury. And when you are 60, you will probably be winning your age group — without a hip or knee replacement.

About the Author
Aaron Moss lives in Seattle, Washington and has been competing in triathlons for 12 years. He is the founder of the Bellingham Triathlon Club in Bellingham, Washington and has been coaching beginning triathletes for 5 years. He is currently an Aquaphor sponsored triathlete.