Why Variety in Training is Key


When Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the Olympic Games thought up the Modern Pentathlon in the early 1900s he wanted to create the perfect athlete or - at the time - the ideal soldier. He created the contest to simulate the experience of a 19th-century cavalry soldier behind enemy lines: he must ride an unfamiliar horse, fight with pistol and sword, swim, and run. Thus the Modern Pentathlon was born and debuted at the games in 1912. Few know that Modern Pentathlon has been on the programme continuously since then. I tried to compete in 2000 but didn't qualify and then went on to study sport science and work at the UN... When I googled "hybrid training" and even "combination training" which I thought were apt descriptions of borrowing elements from various disciplines to creating diverse training programmes, many photos popped up of bodybuilders, ripped bodies in tight tops or none and it was all about muscle building, adding weight and bulking up. However in my own experience and working with people I have found that variety in training has led to the most effective way to lose weight, tone and lengthen the bigger muscle groups and changing a person's appearance overall. Variety also extends to food and the same principles apply. A person who cuts out a food group or deprives themselves anything for a set period of time, will ultimately come to resent these strict rules and break them. Often overcompensating and thus going back to zero. Motivation sinks below zero and getting out of the slump of guilt and inhibition to start over again, makes the whole experience less than pleasant.

What I have seen in people that I've worked with is the exact opposite. The phenomenon of supercompensation. In sports science, supercompensation happens after the training period. It could be called the resting phase when the body recovers. If it is done right, the body not only recovers but gets stronger, thus reaching a higher plateau on which to base the next training period on. By adding variety to my clients' training, I have seen that even though we don't put in a strictly defined recovery phase, we still let certain body parts recover and target other parts. We still fatigue the muscles with repetitions (I distract people with jokes, while we do) but none of the training sessions ever lead to a debilitating state of soreness or emotional distress which make people dread coming back.

Personally I have seen the opposite approach in classes such as bootcamps and some martial arts in which I was yelled at to do things faster and harder and threatened with extra repetitions if I didn't and even though I can push myself well past boundaries that others find painful, I would experience pangs of fear going into these sessions. So I stopped going.

During my time as an athlete, supercompensation was timed accurately especially before big events. I want people that I work with to experience joy in movement so that supercompensation happens naturally. And it's what I've observed. People have increased the number of times they work out now. Their bodies are changing. Their approach to working out went from "I can't do it - I never could" to "hell, yeah" or they simply don't notice the development. They walk straighter and experience food in a different way. They develop a childlike enthusiasm towards trying new things and then realise them when they least expect it. They recover faster (even after birth and C-sections!). They laugh which makes me really happy. In group classes they support each other or in privates they trust me. And so far, they all still like me even after I sneak in an emotional challenge here and there  :)

I find it very important to end each session with some yoga and relaxation so that by Savasana and a head rub you have forgotten everything we did. It's all part of the magic. Witnessing the past months, I'm so impressed with everybody's development, which keeps me on my toes and grateful I get to be part of it.

Thank you.