The Value of Repetition

I wish that I could say, hand on heart, that endurance training is sexy. It’s not. Sometimes it’s a slog; you don’t want to do it, your body doesn’t want to do it, but you know that it has to be done.

What’s even un-sexier? The fact that you must have repetition in your structure to see progress in your development. You can’t hide from this fact. But plenty of people try to.

And look, I have been there myself on that side of the fence:  bogged down in the monotony of it all, even to the point where it all sucked and I didn’t want to play anymore because it wasn’t entertaining. But that’s the part of the sport that you must accept when you choose to throw yourself at it.

There’s value in that repetition.

If I think I think back to my school days, Math was my least favourite subject. Science and English, sure! I was engaged and into that, but for a long time, Math just bore me to a level of disengagement that directly correlated to my results in the subject. Nothing stuck, no matter how much I tried, or how frustrated I got, it sucked. I could tackle the same problem 50 times, and still not get it.

Until one day, the 51st attempt was the one that clicked. I started to understand. It worked.

That’s how I look at the repetition problem that endurance athletes battle with. You have to keep going with it. Constantly seeking changes in the stimulus is too chaotic for aerobic development. You must start at whatever point you start from, and continually layer your stimulus with repetition. As I mentioned last week, if you do so progressively, you will see great results in your athletic development.

Eventually, it will stick. Your body will begin to understand what you’re aiming for; you begin to feel comfortable with those race pace efforts (important!), your form is smooth yet fluid to the conditions. You become dialled in with your body and everything just works.

That place does not come from anything other than that layered repetition of a stimulus. Not ad hoc, not the latest insta-training “plans”. Just old school, getting in, doing the work, then coming back next time and doing it again.

And I know that this is the part that makes it unappealing. I get it. 

Swimming a 4k set as 40x 100m at pace isn’t exactly exciting, and it is isn’t meant to be. What it is meant to do is build a very strong ability to hold pace, consistently. As good pacing is one of the key tenets of racing successfully, then it makes sense to build that ability into your training.

But just doing it once, is not enough. You have to show your ability to do it again, and again and again. Until you can do it without needing to think about (unconscious competence). Then you need to do it over a different distance or at a different pace, or intensity. That is your variation – it is how you become an athlete who successfully manages their pacing.

And that is the value of repetition.

P.S. Best of racing luck to everyone in Busselton, W.A. and Port Macquarie, NSW – especially our EC crew!