Five Reasons Not To Train Like A Pro

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I challenge you to find one endurance sports magazine that has not at some point had at least one article on how to train like a professional {insert sport} athlete. This is likely for good reason – I mean who wouldn’t want to run like Sara Hall, ride like Wout Van Aert, swim like Katie Ledecky or do all three like triathlete Jan Frodeno?! I certainly would!!

However, the unfortunate reality for most of us is that aside from not having enough time to train like a pro, we also likely didn’t choose the right parents from a genetic point of view. As these are two of the more obvious reasons why we’re not pros, let’s delve into these – as well as other reasons why it’s not recommended to try to emulate a pro’s training program.

1. Different Reactions to the Same Training Stimuli

This is perhaps the primary reason why you should not try to follow a pro’s training program… or for that matter, any one else’s program. Just because a training adaption works for one person does not mean that it will work (or work as well) for someone else. While there are basic physiological adaptations of various generalized workouts (ex: low heart rate, tempo efforts) that can be said to benefit everyone, the exact specifics of workouts is largely individually-based.

So next time you hear Joe Blow elite runner saying something like, “You gotta do 4 x 800 meter repeats twice per week… it decreased my 10K PR from 30 minutes to 28:30,” feel free to NOT include this into your next workout!

2. Not the Correct Training Methodologies

Many of us weekend warriors assume that all professional endurance athletes have access to the best resources, both in terms of equipment and advisors/coaches. While this may or may not be true, they still likely have more access to these areas than you and I.

However, just because they have access to dedicated advisors, coaches and staff, it does not mean that they are getting the best and most accurate information. But wait, they are training with, and being coached by the best people right? Maybe.

As an example, within the world of professional cycling, it is commonplace for retired professional riders to stay within the world of professional cycling… but as directors, coaches and advisors. Here’s the problem with this. Unless these individuals have training/education in the science of training and exercise or are exposed and open to learning about modern-day training practices, it is likely that the knowledge that they will pass onto their riders is the same knowledge that they received from their coaches when they were athletes. In effect, the coaching methodologies for many of today’s top cyclists are largely based in the 1960’s and 70’s.

3. Don’t Recover at the Same Rate

This is largely based on genetics as some people recover faster than others. It is one of the key factor that makes elite athletes so great. As an example, current Tour De France champion, Tadej Pogacar (pictured above) is for a lack of better words, a genetic freak. His coach and physiologist noted that while he is outstanding in all areas that are required to be a top cyclist, his main differentiating feature is his ability to recover – which in turn enables him to perform day in, and day out at extremely high levels.

Therefore, you likely wouldn’t be able to maintain the same level of volume and intensity that a professional could without sustaining an injury or succumbing to overtraining syndrome.

4. Your Job

Unless a professional athlete also has a day job, they have one very important edge over you… time. While you’re likely limited in respect to training time to early in the morning or after work, a professional endurance athlete whose primary job is their sport can train (and recover!) throughout the day. This not only allows for greater training volume, but as alluded to above, more time to recover and to train at a time(s) that is ideal for them.

Due to limited time, us non-professionals often find ourselves scrambling for enough time to fit in all of the aspects of training (ex: cardiovascular, strength training, pre/rehab, cross-training, etc…) on a daily basis. This can often lead to fatigue and overall higher stress levels due to a real or perceived lack of time.

5. Resources

As noted above, just because you have great resources in the form of advisors and coaches, it does not mean that those individuals are the best. However, the likelihood of having access to top resources as a professional is much more likely as compared to amateurs.

Using cycling again as an example, in addition to coaches and team directors, pro cyclists may have access to massage therapists, sports psychologists, strength coaches, aerodynamic experts, physiologists and nutritionists. Let’s look at aerodynamic experts as an example of who their resources differ from ours. The cyclist may likely get access to a wind tunnel to assess and modify their form and bike equipment selection. While a non-elite athlete may also be able to get access to this service, it is extremely costly.

A professional’s training program is to a degree, influenced by the findings from the above noted resources. Whether it be pressure-plate treadmills, electromyography muscle testing, VO2 max testing, or time in the wind tunnel – there are many variables that that a professional’s program is based off. In other words, their program is custom-built for them… not you!

Summary

While there are likely some take-aways that can be gleaned from a professional athlete’s program, you should never attempt to copy a professional runner’s program, even if the volume and intensities are reduced. Even if you were a professional runner, it wouldn’t be advised to follow the exact same program as another professional – as noted above, your physiology is different from others and thus how you respond to the same training stimuli differs.

Your physiology, mental response to training/racing, training environment and access to resources will vary substantially in relation to other individuals. For this reason, you cannot and should not expect that your training program will look like any one else’s.

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Rick Prince is the founder of United Endurance Sports Coaching Academy (UESCA), a science-based endurance sports education company. UESCA educates and certifies running, ultrarunning and triathlon coaches (cycling coming soon!) worldwide on a 100% online platform.

Click on the one of below links to learn more about our certifications and to get $50 OFF the purchase price!

Click here to download the UESCA Triathlon Course Overview/Syllabus

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Click here to download the UESCA Ultrarunning Course Overview/Syllabus

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Rick Prince

Rick Prince

Founder/Director of United Endurance Sports Coaching Academy (UESCA).

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