Momentum and the quick answer to how often you should train

Jun 23, 2019 | By Matt Lloyd,

Momentum is everything


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.

Newcomers to my gym often ask me, “how often I should workout? They expect a basic bitch answer, something like “listen to your body” or “every other day” but that’s not what you will get from me. To be clear, those answers aren’t wrong; It’s just that they don’t capture the whole experience of being an athlete. My answer is- you should train as much as possible. You should do this while taking into account the myriad of unique variables that compose every single person of this earth. Spending more time developing your strength, flexibility, endurance, mental aptitude, and recovery – i.e., training, when done correctly, will always yield improvement.


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. 

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The overtraining myth

   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.


Expand your definition of training

For the average athlete, this might sound like too much, but here is a simple truth.  If your goal is to improve at your sport, whatever that is, the best approach is to do something every day that makes you better. Expand your definition of training, If you are a climber – you don’t need to climb every day- that would injure you. Stretching and accessory work might be the best training you can do on a specific day. You rarely need a complete and total rest day- spent on the couch watching Netflix. Stretching is training. Recovering is training. Ice baths are training. Massage is training. Easy, slow, fun workouts are training. Accessory work is training. Going for a long walk with your dog is training. Training is anything that makes you better as long as it is a part of a bigger picture.


Define your goals.Make a plan;  and no matter what, stick to it. Build some badass-take-no-shit-limit-destroying momentum, and the rest is easy.