The Breakthrough Workout: Finding Clarity, Focus and Motivation
Coaches will describe a breakthrough workout as “a workout intended to cause a significant, positive, adaptive response. These workouts can take 24 hours or longer to recover from.” Training Peaks advises athletes to “use caution with these workouts.” From a coach’s perspective breakthrough workouts are meant to have an extremely high intensity and intended to stress the body, which ultimately leads to optimal fitness. In summary, breakthrough workouts are measured by physical intensity. They are the kind of workouts that leave you napping on your couch all afternoon except to get up and eat because your metabolism is through the roof.
I evaluate my breakthrough workouts on a different scale. My breakthrough workouts are those workouts where everything goes right. Where I find clarity, focus, and I hit my performance goals ALL at once. These moments are beautiful and one of the most motivating, powerful training tools I have.
I live for the hope that I may have a breakthrough workout today and they come when you least expect them. I remember one of the most meaningful breakthrough workouts I’ve ever had which 16 days before Ironman Chattanooga.
The last six weeks of training had been horrific. I blew out my right knee on mile 16 of a 22-mile run (which I stupidly finished), work was piling up in preparation for the launch of the ELEMNT GPS Bike Computer, and I hadn’t had time to just sit on my couch and watch TV in months. I was in the taper portion of my training so mentally it was hard to justify getting up at 5 AM for a 5-mile run, but I got up anyways. Here’s a glimpse of my run:
“As I get started there is barely a drizzle, and honestly, I am just thankful to not have 120 percent humidity. I think about heading to a treadmill but decided if it gets too bad I could always find cover (it’s a route I have done 100 times before).
Just as I am getting warmed up, the drizzle becomes a downpour of rain, and I am soaked. Turning around is pointless now. I keep running. It’s’ dark, but I don’t care. There is nothing moving but me and the rain – no sounds except my feet, my heavy breathing, and the pitter-patter of raindrops on my hat bill.
I am in my groove, the rain slows down, and I give myself a mental pat on the back for not calling it quits at mile 0.2. The world is quiet but other runners are joining me now as we give each other the encouraging nod as we pass.
The world is starting to wake up. The black sky becomes gray, and there is a tiny pink speck on the horizon. This is my favorite part of every run – I live for the moment the night becomes day. But I keep running, contemplating nothing and everything all at the same time.
Half a mile to go and my legs are picking up feeding on the increased activity around. I see the last hill and power up it; it is all downhill from here (literally), and I fight the internal urge to sprint to the finish or savor the last few minutes of solitude for the day. Smile, Stretch, Repeat – the run is over and my day begins.”
To me, the breakthrough workouts make all of the mindless miles worth it. It is a sensation that is hard to put into words because it is so purely simple and powerful. Unlike a coach’s breakthrough workout which relates to the physical, my breakthrough workouts don’t come around often. When they do happen I try my hardest to recognize the moment for what it is and enjoy every minute of it. The clarity found on these mornings is unmatched and can push your motivation to new heights.