Almost everyone training for selection thinks that they’re not doing enough. Everyone wants to do more, more, more work.

I’ve talked with people who have tried waiting until a few months out from selection and then pile on the endurance training and work volume. It doesn’t work.

I’ve worked with people who give themselves a year to train, but still pile on too much endurance training and work volume too soon. It doesn’t work. 

This is a BIG MISTAKE that I keep seeing made over and over.

For example, military athletes always ask me: “is running with a rucksack bad for your knees?” No. No, it’s not. It’s bad for your knees to add in too much volume too quickly, before your body can adapt. It’s bad for your knees to add a lot of weight to an already imbalanced system, for sure. Conversely, if you start with a strong, structurally-balanced base, then incrementally increase volume overtime, you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish.

To give some personal context, my first true endurance race was in 2012. I ran 32 km in combat pants and boots, with a 40lb rucksack on my back, in three hours and 20 minutes. 32 km, 40lbs, 3hrs and 20 mins. Just under 10 km, or 6 miles, per hour. Best part? I walked away with no knee, ankle, or back injuries and was back to my normal training routine the next day.

It can be hard to dial things back if you’re used to training twice a day, six days/week for hours on end. But, if you’ve hit a plateau you can’t bust through, or are experiencing recurring, nagging injuries, this could be significant for you. It also might seem strange to pull back on training if you’re used to this ‘suck-it-up’ military mindset. Military athletes usually think hiring us means we’ll tell them to do more; they’re surprised this isn’t the answer. When we lay out an intelligent, progressive plan, it quickly becomes obvious to them that smarter, not blindly harder, is the path to elite performance….even if it’s difficult for the mind to adjust to at first.

Another problem with doing too much too soon is that if you don’t have a solid base, if you aren’t structurally balanced and if you aren’t using correct movement mechanics, you’re figuratively running before you can crawl – and may be creating long-term problems for your body. Mastering the basics, before adding volume, sets you in good stride to make incredible progress, quickly, to achieve your full athletic potential.

A great example of this is the Canadian Clearance Diver Course we worked with in 2014/2015. We designed a year of their on-course training. We turned a normally-unplanned, demotivating physical beat-down – with no training progression or individualization – into an intelligent, progressive, customized program that saw divers making historic swim times.

Our goal was to get as many people as possible under 14 minutes for a 1 km open-water fin swim. On average, in the team’s history, one person had achieved this per course. With a specialized program, we had a whopping seven of 12 students complete in under 14 minutes! One even broke the unit record at 12:52. The remaining five students were all under 14:30. That kind of improvement is MASSIVE. And it was achieved largely though a closely-monitored progression in training volume.

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How great would it be if you could stop running yourself ragged? If you could stop unnecessarily fatiguing and overworking yourself – and, instead, implement a progressive, intelligent training plan? Food for thought.

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