Today I had a discussion about training methods with a rower friend of mine. This is someone who knows my methodologies but is training in a more 'traditional' manner for rowers. People in the rowing community are big believers in the "aerobic base" and even though they are power endurance athletes they spend hours and hours doing long slow distance work.
(rundown on why I think this is a waste of time here)
Very early in my conversation I decided I would not give my opinion on any of this, but would simply ask "why" my friend was doing what they were doing. Also asking what they were trying to accomplish physiologically and what in their racing lead them to choose these training methods. I hoped that my friend would understand what they were doing enough to give a reasonable explanation. They did not, and simply asked me what I would do, I replied. The more I wrote the more I thought it suited to this medium.
You should have enough information to make up your own mind, and then a training plan based on what you believe to be true. You’ll never really be a success until you have an understanding of what you’re trying to accomplish, and the methods you’re going to use to get there. It’s the same with training, rowing, learning a foreign language or anything in life. You can do someone else’s workout program, you can copy someone else’s style, you can parrot phrases from a phrasebook, but none of those are understanding.
Creating a workout program based on your physiology, needs and goals is understanding. Rowing with feel for the blades, the boat and the water, creating a balance of the three using your body as the media is understanding. Thinking and emoting in a different language, reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez in Spanish, Goethe in German, or Dostoyevsky in Russian and feeling the emotions of the stories is understanding. Until you (and no one else) take responsibility for your training, and workouts you’ll never really get there.
No one can tell you how to “get fast” they can tell you how to get fast-er, but the things you do, and have done are different from anyone else. Your body will respond differently than anyone else’s. Only you know if you’re really pushing your limits, so only you can prescribe pushing further, or pulling back, but it takes a level of awareness and self knowledge that most people are unwilling to allow themselves. To be a success you have to set your own goals, and should be able to explain your methods for getting there. Training without an underlying knowledge and understanding is a waste of time.
To go a step further my friend is not alone in jumping headlong into an action without an underlying philosophy. There are many coaches in the rowing world who are terrible because they've never gotten to a point where they were in tune with the entire system. They prescribe drills, training methods, and buy equipment based on what they were told the 4 years they trained in college x number of years ago. They lack understanding, they may get it eventually, but those who can coach their way to understanding are rare. That is the problem with internet training gurus who have never competed in anything, or trained someone to compete in anything. They're just parroting what they've heard, but they don't really understand it.
You have to understand all of the parts, and then know how they work together. You have to address weak points, and have a purpose for what you’re doing. It takes time and effort, and once you achieve it, you can start to create and innovate, you can take your.. whatever to a higher level.