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                         Variety / 變化

Today, elite and professional athletes spend as much time at their sport as a high level executive or professional spends at work. The volume and intensity of workouts are continuously increasing, and exercises are repeated over and over again. Many elite athletes often train over 1000 hours per year. Top swimmers can cover over 10 kilometers a day in the pool. Professional cyclists in Europe ride upwards of eight hours a day, six or sometime seven days a week. It is not uncommon to see young gymnasts spending 6 hours per day repeating same routines. With such amount of work many athletes have problems distinguishing between over training and mental fatigue. Where as overload (easily mistaken for over training) is required for maximum performance improvement, mental fatigue, which has roots in boredom and monotony, is not. Like any other activity, even a sport, which we consider fun, if taken to an extreme, becomes boring and eventually turns us off. When building short and long-term programs, it is very important to pay attention to the impact variation can have on the final result.

Periodization of the annual training process into weekly, monthly, and seasonal cycles can keep enough variety to prevent staleness or boredom. When planning individual training sessions, various methods should be used to keep them attractive and stimulating. Keeping variety in the training process has the benefit of not only preventing boredom or monotony, but even more importantly, of speeding up progress through active participation. Variety holds our attention and stimulates the central nervous system keeping us alert and magnifying the effect of the workouts. Probably you remember from school, that even your favorite subject, when presented in dull way, quickly became boring and difficult to focus on. On the other hand, sometimes a presentation you were not initially interested in, when presented is a dynamic way with stimuli you were not used to, could change you forever.

After many years of training, even with good periodization, there are only so many things in highly specialized sports that you can vary and staleness can still occur. If this happens you can try changing the environment of training. The year before the Nagano winter Olympics one of the Dutch speed skaters spent most of the year in Hawaii training on in-line skate and water-skiing. This may seem like a joke, but in fact, his results were quite good. Do not be afraid that you may regress by getting away for a short time or doing completely different activities. In the general phase of the early preparatory stage try to learn new skills. Athletes focusing on the Olympic Games can use the year after the Olympics for exploring other things or taking some longer break for adventure activities. It is also good to change your racing schedule or try different sports. A big part of keeping the variety principle alive in the training process lays on coach's shoulders. Knowledgeable and experienced coaches can catch early symptoms of coming problems and find creative solutions without loosing physical adaptation and disturbing the training process.

If you reach a state of boredom or staleness, the worst thing you can do is to fall into the trap of doing nothing. Passive rest in the case of staleness is about as effective as sitting in front of a stalled computer and waiting, instead of pushing restart button and then trying to clean up the problem program or file. Like in any other aspects of life, you should not wait until problems occur to think about them. Remember that in your everyday life variety is essential as well. If you do the same tasks day after day at work you will eventually lose interest and become unproductive. Don't be afraid to make changes, even if you are not confident that they are needed. Waiting until you are bored will make it more difficult to change and easier to quit or give up. Take time off to do new or different things. Expand your interests. A one sided life is not only unhealthy, it is self destructive. Stay focused on your goals and try to discern whether you are simply bored or, in fact, uninterested in the path you are following. Monotony is often a part of life we must deal with to achieve our goals. However, boredom brought about by a lack of interest is what we are doing requires

                          Copyright 1999 Sport is Life       January, 2000