20 years of being an athlete and a coach have afforded me more than a few insights into athletic performance. When I reflect on the similarities of successful athletes i have known, one trait shines through. Momentum, they all have it, use it, and respect it. In simple terms, momentum explains why athletes who train get better, those that train more often get better faster, and the faster you get better, the easier it is to maintain your training program. It’s a gloriously simple cycle.
Allow me to digress for one moment. When you are new to training or making significant changes to your training program, some things are a given. Sudden increases in exercise and intensity will make anyone sore, like, debilitating-cant-walk-right sore. The natural reaction of most beginner to intermediate athletes is to rest when they are sore- a logical and reasonable reaction. This choice even makes perfect sense on paper. We understand that after training, it is the recovery cycle that causes the improvement in athletic ability. However, if the work/ rest cycle is so clear, then why do the best athletes on earth train back to back for weeks or months on end? Because of Momentum.
One of the reasons every successful athlete has a feverish desire to train and work is because they have, over time, built up a reward cycle of training and as a result reaping the reward of that training- performance. This is how I define momentum. The training has become an entity of its own, something that is both a physical object to posses and an esoteric feeling to remember; even a day without it might make it disappear, an apparition. The athlete who trained frequently feel the sum of their efforts behind them, pushing them forward, moving them closer and closer to their goals. When they are sick or stressed out, or their lives are hectic, they still train. Their friends say they are overdoing it, that they are “overtraining”. Their friends are wrong; these people also have momentum. But in this case, as Newton said, objects at rest tend to stay at rest.
Inertia for athletes that train infrequently or with long breaks between sessions serves only to keep them at rest. The result of the most peoples reduced training frequency and its resulting diminished effects on their performance causes those athletes to view others with higher work loads as unreasonable, or maybe even impossible- because, to them, it is. The best among us have a knack of knowing this fundamental truth about the world inhenerntly, even if just in their subconscious.
Why are Mondays hard? Because over just two short little days your grind and hustle that you built all week has slowed, you feel the lethargy of the weekend creep into your work; it starts the moment your alarm goes off. Most professional athletes desire the routine so much that they workout on Christmas, on their birthdays, they even workout when it will not make them better, when injured or in need of a rest day, but they fear the loss of momentum- rightfully so. This is where non athletes- people who have never been elite at a sport- like to interject about rest days and overtraining. Consider this: every pro athlete I know has been accused of “overtraining,” and every slob I know takes lots of rest days. While more rest days might help the professional athlete, it only does so as a result of years of regular training. Rest days are the antibiotic of the training world- yes they work, yes they are necessary- yes- they are over prescribed and as a result lack potency. The benefits of frequent and complete rest days often don’t outweigh the risk that a loss of momentum incurs. Its all about the net positive.