This blog post is made in cooperation with our partner Lasse Rantala, from ATP-training program. Lasse has decades of experience in the field of functional training and coaching. He coaches and helps several competitive CrossFit athletes to achieve their goals and together we were thinking when would be a more perfect time to speak about the optimal amount of practice than January - the beginning of the year when many of us have set some new (training) goals.
How do you practice in a way that ensures the best development without overload, repetitive strain injuries, and/or burn-out? Your practice and exercising must be organised so that it suits your personal resources and assets. Only then can we say the amount of practice is optimal, Lasse explains. This is very individual though, and it is easier said than done when it comes to finding your own optimal level. The best way to begin is to analyse your starting point: where are your strengths and weaknesses, and how do your resources look like? After having answers to their questions, it is easier to program your training to suit your current lifestyle.
The amount of practice (volume and intensity) should be progressive and programmed in the way that it supports your goals. When you get better, it is natural to increase the amount of training. It is never stagnant. Lasse gives us an example; “If I compare myself to a Games athlete and my mother, we have different optimal levels depending on our personal goals.”
Lasse has decades of experience in functional training and coaching, and based on this experience he is confident when saying that quality wins over quantity. It is more important how you do your thing than specifically what you do. At this point, the role of a coach is invaluable. A professional coach is able to design your training so that it supports your needs, goals and daily life, but also ensures you will improve and make progress.
It is important to track your results because it is the only way to find out if the chosen methods work for you. You won’t see the result in one night; you must give it time. No matter what you practice, it takes persistence. On top of training, you must take care of the supporting habits as well. Rest, nutrition, your day-to-day level of activity, and stress management all together play a key role whether you succeed in achieving your goals or simply push your goals further from your reach. It is wise to listen to your body and train in a way that brings you pleasure. A positive mindset will reflect on your training and continue to help you along the road to achieving your goals. When you enjoy what you are doing, it is more likely that you continue doing it. If practising is a constant battle, it won’t last long-term.
Lasse advises matching the level with your daily life. Nowadays, social media easily creates an illusion that training should be the most important thing in our lives and we all should live for sports no matter what it takes. Lasse reminds us importantly that it is perfectly normal and acceptable to concentrate on other important things in life, such as family or a career. If you do shift work and you have small children, it can be very challenging to train like a Games athlete. If you want to be the best lawyer in the world, it is wiser to spend more time with the law books than making your handstand walk perfect.
However, the human body needs movement and physical exercise. If you dismiss this, the results can be catastrophic. Exercise and healthy habits will support your goals outside the gym, too.
Competitive sports at the highest level is another story. Competitive sports at a high level begin where training for your health ends. Top athletes are professional and thus it is a job that has advantages and disadvantages, like any profession. Top athletes have built their daily lives around sports and to achieve their goals they must create a physical and mental space to train and take care of their bodies. We all have days when we don’t feel like going to work but we must. In this light, professional athletes handle a lack of training motivation a bit better than average. It is important to remember that when your income does not depend on training, you must find training methods that continue to motivate you long-term. Achieving goals require hard work, but at the same time once achieved they can motivate to continue towards new, higher goals.
Lasse’s advice is to find your optimal amount of practice that will lead towards something you want (define it). Trust yourself, enjoy what you are doing, and do not compare yourself to others. These are simple (but easier said than done) steps for how to achieve your goals at the gym and outside sports.
This blog post is a free translation of Lasse’s blog post "Optimaalinen harjoitusmäärä".
Ama & Essi
Edited by Alex Burchell
This article was originally published in January 2019.