I'm reading "The Race Against Time" which outlines the sometimes friendly, sometimes contentious rivalry between Chris Boardman and Graeme Obree, arguably the best two time trialists on the bike during the '90s and both British.
Two completely different riders with two completely different personalities and two different approaches to training. Boardman was always considered the scientist, creating a methodical, surgical strategy to training and racing; if it could be quantified, Boardman measured it. Obree, on the other hand, seemed to fly by the seat of his pants, riding minimally and completely by feel; he was either full gas or not riding. Boardman trained and raced to the numbers while Obree wanted to see just how deeply he could descend into the Pain Cave. Two entirely different approaches.
Yet, nearly identical results. In the individual pursuit on the track, 10-mile and 25-mile TTs on the road, and in the pursuit of the then romantic and prestigious hour record.
We all strive to find the best, most advanced approach to our training. Sometimes that's getting back to basics; sometimes it's buying in to the latest and greatest training tips. Sometimes it's spending countless hours on the internet looking for some reference to a super secret training method that Racer X used to conquer the world. We track heart rate, sweat rate, caloric burn rate, power, RPE, cadence, stride rate, stroke rate and anything else we can in order to create marginal gains.
All of these things are important. To a degree. But without comprehension, the numbers are quite meaningless. I think we can all benefit from a greater comprehension of the signals with which the body is providing us. Athletes suffer from a syndrome of training to the numbers while tuning out the body's signals. I'm prone to wonder how much less effective our training would be if we ditched all the numbers and just trained by feel. How long or short would it take to become proficient at it? How much confidence would we have in a back to basics approach? How many of us would be willing to go off the grid? Would training be more enjoyable if we set ourselves free?
Some of my most enjoyable training sessions are those in which I have no expectations yet from which I derive plenty of challenge and fitness benefit. Think about it ...