“We’ve explored strength & conditioning. Now we exploit it.”
Sisyphus cheated death. Twice. When his cleverness couldn’t save him a third time, he was sentenced to roll a boulder up a hill. Problem was, the boulder would never come to rest at the top. The boulder rolls back down and back to work he goes. It’s an eternity of repeating the same effort. Greek mythology or not, this is a terrible training program. At a certain point, Sisyphus will hit a plateau (how ironic).
Reflecting on last quarter, we saw an incredible amount of progress following a strictly linear strength progression. The only variable was increasing load. The sets, reps, rest, and movements all remained the same from week to week. And it worked.
In Q2, we also kept our energy systems separated. If it was a MAP (max aerobic power) day, we didn’t lift heavy but stayed focused on repeatable, powerful efforts. On endurance days, we focused on a consistently sustainable effort. This also worked. But we know it will only work for so long before more variety is needed to incite further progress.
In Q3, rather than rolling the metaphorical boulder up the hill again, we’re going to introduce variety. Your training plan will blend energy systems, rarely repeat the same strength movements, and keep the sets, reps, and rest changing from day-to-day and week-to-week.
The idea is that these small adjustments require new adaptations. More adaptations result in increased athleticism and resilience. After building a strong foundation in squatting, pressing, hinging, and heavy breathing in Q2, Q3 will be increasing the margins of our experience with variety. This prescription will include some workouts that have unpredictable outcomes because we have yet to experience the specific task or combination of tasks. That’s the point. Once we have that new experience under our belts, we’ve increased our capacity to perform more of the unknown. If you already have these experiences under your belt, it’s your opportunity to increase your capacity, competence, and confidence in your performance.
So how do we customize when the variables may be relatively uncommon to the individual? We, as your coaches, have a lot of data to use from your results in TrueCoach and our growing relationships with you. You can trust us to guide you through these lesser-knowns with informed prescriptions. We can also use a new tool: RPE.
RPE: Rate of Perceived Exertion
In Q3, we’re introducing a new guiding light to training intent. Enter, RPE: “Rate of Perceived Exertion.” We all remember our initial assessment. You were likely asked after your 10-minute Echo Bike test how your effort felt. In other words, what was your perceived exertion? Did you leave some in the tank or empty it? This is unique to the individual and your perception of your own limits. Many other unique factors are constantly at play:
Rest and recovery prior to exertion
Fuel (nutrition) prior to exertion
Energy levels prior to exertion
Time of Day / Routine
Environmental Variables (weather, air quality, etc)
Training Age / Experience
Combination of movements during exertion
Future training (within the day or the following days, weeks)
With all of these variables, your expectations from your coach and of yourself can vary day to day, week to week, and long term. We can still use the data we have to guide movement selection, loading, and volume, but RPE can give you a better idea of the intent and intensity. Some tasks will still have loads prescribed for you. Some will have RPE recommendations. Some will have both, which allows you to consider all these factors before kicking the tires and lighting the fires. To get us all on the same page, here’s a table to break down what these efforts can mean for you, depending on the task. Whether it’s a a single lift or circuit, an endurance piece, or a complex combination of movements in a metcon, we can find common ground somewhere on this table…
To get even better acquainted with these perceptions of exertion, it will be helpful for you to score your RPE within your training results. For instance, when you test your 2RM Sumo Deadlift, if you felt like you could have done a 3rd rep, you might say it was a 9/10. Or during a 4k run, if you were able to talk to a friend while jogging, you could score your time and say that it was a 4-5/10. If you’re in the middle of a metcon and someone asks how your day was and you just grunt in response, you can likely say it was a 9-10/10. This will get you in tune with your own efforts and capabilities, inform you if you did the workout as intended, and help your coach better understand your capabilities. All good things.
Looking further ahead to Q4, we will very likely return to the linear progressions for strength and conditioning, applying our now more robust fitness to fundamental tasks. At which point, if Sisyphus is following the program with us, he’ll likely request a bigger boulder.