We are lucky to have Nick Hummel here at HT as an intern through the PCC Fitness Technology Program. The program prepares students for either taking one of the Personal Training certifying exams or for continuing their education in Athletic Training, Physical Therapy, etc.

Nick got into the program through self need and has a passion for helping others in his situation. As a mountaineer, he found he could improve his performance with “off-the-mountain” training but saw there was a lack of resources available and he’s aiming to fix that! His passion for the outdoors and for performing at your best come across in this article and there will be two follow-ups by Nick in the coming weeks…Enjoy!

Why Training is Important, By Nick Hummel
In many circles there is little or no differentiation between participation in the sport and training for the sport. Amateur runners and cyclists often just rack up miles in the name of “training.” Amateur skiers just go up to the mountain and ski. Climbers go to the rock gym when conditions aren’t good outside; they may add in some hiking or trail running. The problem with a lot of this “training” is that it doesn’t create meaningful or long term performance gains. I hate to break it to you, but the athletes at the top of their sport don’t just go run, ride, ski, or climb. If you want to be good, you need deliberate, thoughtful training.

The benefits of training are both physical and psychological. Strength training provides an overload, forcing muscles to adapt. Manipulating the number of repetitions, sets, and load will produce specific adaptations in muscle tissue. Training with a high weight and low reps improves maximal strength, while low weight and high rep training improves muscular endurance.

These changes happen because of physiological changes in muscle cells, and also from neurological changes that improve the body’s ability to use its muscle cells. All of this boils down to improved strength for hill climbs or the sprint for the finish, and improved efficiency for endurance events. A quality program will produce these adaptations. Well-designed training also promotes muscle balance better than exclusive sport participation would. This means a decreased chance of injury. Some of these adaptations would never happen by simply running, riding, skiing, or climbing. How many people do you know that are perpetually injured from their “training”? If you’re injured, you’re out of the game.

Beyond the physical adaptations; there are important psychological adaptations that take place. Training forces you to do something difficult that you don’t necessarily want to do; that you may not think you can do. Regularly facing the challenges of training tears down psychological barriers. What would have once felt like an extreme level of exertion becomes trivial, in spite of only modest physiological adaptations.

Finishing a workout when it seemed impossible builds confidence in your abilities. With this improved confidence you may decide that running a marathon, doing an Ironman, or climbing a big route are not just for the elite, but that you too can accomplish whatever you decide is important, if you train for it. Thoughtful training requires discipline; and discipline transfers to all facets of life.

Instead of thinking that the pros have some secret miracle program or won the genetic lottery, consider the possibility that their hard work has produced adaptations that were both physical and psychological. The physiological improvements of training are obviously essential for performance; but the ability of the body means nothing once the mind has decided to quit.

In the following posts I will discuss the physiological and psychological adaptations of training, and their implications in greater detail.