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Training Peaks and Valleys

One Can’t Live at the Summit

Upon getting to the top of one mountain, take a gaze and see what other mountains are within your reach. Just make sure to take a little break before tackling it.1

We all want to be on top of our game. Yet, no matter how much we think we can or want to be, we have to get it through our heads- WE CAN’T BE ON TOP ALL YEAR LONG!

Plain and simple, I don’t care what the fitness magazines and/or the popular media portrays. It is all lies. If you’re training hard and trying to get to the extremes in your chosen sport or profession, you cannot peak all year long. Individuals must realize that the majority of time is spent ramping up or coasting down the sides of a mountain. In between we spend a brief moment at the summit, enjoying the view.

The Journey

At times, you’re going to face hurdles, injuries, etc, during the ascent. During this time period, it may feel like each successive step is like trudging through quicksand. We all have these moments. They are something we have to accept and move past. By overcoming this difficult step, or even taking a few steps back, we can get back on our way towards whatever summit we’re striving towards. Upon reaching the summit, be sure to enjoy it. The view from the top is great. It allows us to see things we’ve never seen before… This includes summits that reach even higher than the one you currently find yourself standing on.

Take Pride but Don’t Rest on One Peak.

You have a few choices upon reaching the peak of one mountain. You can either rest on the mountain you’re on or go after the one you see in the distance. This is a simple choice. You are done if you try to live life on the memory of one crest, one trip to the top. It’s a continuing journey. We must press on to new goals. However, before you can ascend the next mountain, you must first get off the one you’re currently standing atop. This involves a journey back down into the valley for rest and recovery. This is required such that you’re physically and mentally ready to ascend the next, more challenging mountain. In other words, you must stop, step back, and reload before you can reach for those new heights.

Having the ability to accept that your trek now leads to a temporary state of being de-conditioned is key. It’s those who realize and accept this fact that climb the entire mountain range; not just one peak. They learn their mental and physical limits; when to take a step back and when to push on in their training. They are fully aware that healing, resting, and having fun at all stages of the journey, not just the summit, is key to success. This is in contrast to those who never rest in the valley. This latter group often burn hot, burn bright and burn out in a short matter of time. They never really reach what they are capable of accomplishing simply because they never taking a rest from “pressing the limits” in order to break new ground.

A Perfect Example – Elite Athletes

Athletes train months on end to peak for a single day or event. During this time, they are slowly ramping things up, taking their bodies to higher and faster extremes in order to stand at the summit. With each successive step towards the top, they add increasingly greater amounts of stress to their bodies. In return, their body physically adapts in a way that allows them take a swing at the fences for one event or season. Although these moments at the top are nice, the journey to get to that peak level of skill often leaves athletes physically and psychologically drained. Upon completion of the season/event, a period of rest and de-conditioning is needed such that they are prepared for their next trek.

The same goes for a nutrition protocol that has you reaching for extremes. The body can only take so much before it has to begin to break. You can only sport that ripped “veiny” six pack so long before you MUST, take a break. The body will limit you. You will start to lose things. Muscle mass will go, general health, cognitive function, state of well being will as well. It’s just like being obese, the body can only handle it so long before it breaks.

Remember, extreme leanness IS NOT a state of fitness or a marker of great health. One’s body cannot naturally sustain itself for extended periods of time at ultra low body fat. Again I don’t care what popular media or supplement companies portray.

Wrapping it up…

You have to take an athletic mindset to your passions, your work, and realize it has to be a labor of love. Look forward to training, to the next challenge. Take each step knowing that the way to the top is usually not a straight line. There is inevitably going to be a few plateaus or even steps backwards on your journey to the top. When these events occur, keep your focus and refuse to let your eyes drift from that final destination. Similarly the downward journey may be a quicker descent than you’d like. This is not a bad thing. Both physically and psychologically your body needs to recover as it has just been pushed to the point of breaking in order to stand at the summit. Accepting a fall to reach that next top is what separates those who will succeed from those who will continue to widdle away in mediocrity. Upon recharging the mind and body you’ll be ready for your next great ascent. I look forward to seeing you at the top.


1 Image taken by Rick Kimpel. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.Image accessed on Dec 23, 2010 from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/18606128@N00/181622538

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Written on December 23, 2010 by Phil Stevens
Last Updated: January 01, 2011

This information is not intended to take the place of medical advice.Please check with your health care providers prior to starting any new dietary or exercise program. CasePerformance is not responsible for the outcome of any decision made based off the information presented in this article.

About the Author: Coach Phil Stevens is an accomplished strength athlete with considerable experience in Powerlifting, strongman competition, and highland games. Phil is the 2007 APA World Champion in the 242-pound class (total). He has held the APF 275-pound class raw National bench, squat, deadlift, and total records. Phil’s marquis lift was his 725-pound raw beltless deadlift, performed on February, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona. He has been ranked in the “Top 10” in the deadlift across all national powerlifting federations. In addition, Phil has in a few short months moved to the A class in highland games with the goal of going Pro. His coaching services are avalable by clicking on the Strength Sport Consultation tab.
Professional Commitments:In addition to his coaching duties, he also serves as the California State Chair for the North American Highlander Association, as well as the founder of Lift For Hope an annual strength competition with proceeds donated to charity. He also runs his own printing business (business cards to t-shirts with everything in between) that can be found at www.bingcolorprint.com.