Training program

This gold medal-winning speed skater’s training regimen reveals a brutal truth about success

Social psychologists call it the above-average effect: according to one wide range of studiesmost of us will consider ourselves above average in terms of skill, effort, creativity, intelligence, reliability, athleticism, honesty, friendliness…

Give us a survey on almost any trait, and we’ll almost always rate ourselves above average.

At least until we take a look at the Swedish speed skater’s training schedule Nils van der Poel.

After recently dominating the 5,000m event — and breaking a 10,000m world record — van der Poel released his 62-page training program. Not just training splits, intervals, exercises, etc., but also his philosophy of training and success.

The common way to approach sport seems to me to be to build certain abilities (e.g. max strength, VO2max, threshold, technique, mobility, core stability, etc.), and as you approach competition you put all these abilities together, like a puzzle, and thus you build the perfect speed skater.

To some extent, I approached the sport in a similar way, but I believed the puzzle had only two pieces: (1) competitive speed capacity and (2) aerobic capacity.

(So) the main idea of ​​my training program was that you will become good at whatever you train. The idea was that whoever skated the most 30.0 (second) laps in the last three months before the competition would win the 10k. My pre-season (reach up to three months before priority competition) basically had two goals: (1) develop the ability to be able to skate a 30.0 lap and (2) build good recovery so I could skate a 30.0 as often as possible.

Think about it. As van der Poel writes, since success inherently involves finding a competitive edge, most professional athletes add a variety of different activities to their training regimen: strength training. Elongation. Plyometrics. Basic work. Auxiliary skills work. Balance and coordination.

But not to van der Poel:

All workouts come at the expense of other more effective workouts, or at the expense of recovery from those workouts.

My point is not that stretching is unnecessary. If you need to stretch, go ahead and bend over. But make no mistake; don’t waste hours of essential sessions doing something that looks cool or is easy. Yes the gym is warm and nice, mirrors everywhere so you can see your pretty face and nice muscles.

But you’re more likely 50 watts (short) of the bike threshold required to go below 12 minutes (within 10,000 meters) than 50 kg in squats.

I completely cut what I thought were the sub-optimal sessions in order to increase the optimal ones (my fat).

For van der Poel, doing “more” meant doing more of what mattered most: developing the stamina to skate as many 30-second laps as possible.

So he spent a year off the ice developing his aerobic capacity. When he returned to the ice, he focused on two things: refining and optimizing his technique, and developing the strength and endurance to unwind those strings of perfectly executed 30-second tricks.

“For me,” van der Poel writes, “speed skating was just a one-legged squat, repeated over and over during peak heart rate.”

This approach may seem simplistic.

Although the obvious ideas are almost always the most powerful.

Get a good start for new employees. Internal Google research found that employees whose managers met with new hires on day one to talk about roles and responsibilities upgraded 25% faster than those whose managers did not.

Yet many managers were too busy. Or were too focused on other things.

Even if the impact – if only on making a new employee feel welcome and valued – was obvious.

Consider one of your most important goals, then take a step back. Don’t think about what you Like To do. Don’t think about what other people are doing. Remove the suboptimal and increase the optimal.

To fix your results, the answer is probably simple: focus on sales. To lose weight, the answer is simple: cut calories. To minimize the onboarding curve — and improve employee engagement — spend time with new hires on day one and establish regular check-ins during those first few weeks.

And then never forget that you always have — always – have more in you than you think. When you’re doing something hard and you think you need to stop, you don’t. You have more in you.

When you’re trying to overcome a bad habit and you don’t think you can, you can. You have more in you.

The next time you think you’ve reached your limit, do one more. The next time you think you can’t go on, take it a step further. Challenge yourself to see if you can take a little more.

Over time, challenging yourself will become a habit – and so will accomplishing so much more than you ever thought possible.

Skill and stamina? They increase naturally through focused effort.

But so is determination. As van der Poel writes:

I wasn’t mentally strong when I was a kid. I hated competing ever since I started speed skating. I really hated it. It’s still a bit anxiety-provoking for me. I think that will always be the case when I test myself in an activity that is really close to my heart. But today is a walk in the park compared to when I was a kid.

This development was mainly acquired by a continuous voluntary confrontation with the challenge (reread this sentence and emphasize the voluntary work). It was the first time that I understood that I was volunteering, or that I wanted to do so, that I was able to compete with a free spirit.

Because the best challenges – the ones that allow you to grow and learn the most – are the ones you volunteer for.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.