How to cheat the system and win: Three biohacks to fast track your performance
June 1, 2016
The human body is a complex biological organism made up of various multifaceted systems. While at first this can make the task of training a bit mind boggling and confusing. It also opens up a number of loop holes that we can tap into and get rapid improvements in different aspects of our performance.
When looking at an athlete's performance it is smart to first look at the smallest possible change that can be made, that will result in the biggest performance improvement.
While this sounds logical I am always surprised at how many athletes I see focusing on the small details that result in small gains before they nail these big gains.
In this article I want to give you three principles that you can use to hack your biology so you can start getting some big gains from your training investment.
1) Don't be insane, do something different
No doubt, most people reading this will know the old saying; 'Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result'. The really insane thing is that most know this and still approach their training in this way. The human body is an extremely adaptable organism and will adapt quickly to deal with new stressors. When it comes to training, once adapted the body requires a different training stress to adapt further. If the body is continually exposed to the same training stress then your performance gains will quickly plateau out.
You can use this knowledge to help rapidly boost your performance. If you add a different training method or technique into the mix you will get really good rapid gains as the cells in your body scramble to quickly try and reorganise themselves to deal with the new training stress. So don't be insane, start making some changes in your training.
Some simple changes could be mixing up your usual training loops, training with different training partners or changing the time of the day you train. Some more advanced changes that will see rapid adaptation could be introducing new training methods such as gym based strength work, nutrient deprivation training or high intensity interval training. If you are already ticking these boxes then you can look at adjusting how you undertake these sessions to keep making those changes.
2) Use the Pareto principle
Again most people will be familiar with the concept of the Pareto principle but will likely know it as the 80/20 rule. This principle states that we get 80% of our result from 20% of our work. While this can be applied to many areas of life, not a truer word can be said in the world of training. It links back into how the body adapts to training. The initial rapid adaptation will occur on a minimal (20%) training load to give you the majority (80%) of your result. While if you want to reach your full potential then the gains get smaller and require increasingly more training.
A classic example of this is triathletes and swimming. A triathlete can spend 5-6 sessions a week in the pool slaving away at their swimming all year only to improve their race day time by a few seconds. While this may be worth it at the very pointy end of the field. Most people could cut back on their training in the pool and get the same result or potentially a better overall result by putting that extra time into another area of their training where the returns are going to be bigger.
So sit down and take a look at the training you are doing. Highlight the key sessions (20%) that are giving you the biggest gains (80%). Instantly you will find your once packed schedule will be instantly freed up. This can be a hard task to do on your own and often becomes more mental than physical, as athletes lean on their large training volumes for reassurance that they are doing the 'right' thing. In my experience when people start to trim off the non-essential training sessions they really start to make big gains as they free up more time to focus on their recovery, body maintenance and life in general.
3) Tune up your training intensity
Training intensity is one of the most potent training stimuli. Training duration can be slashed with minimal effect on performance if training intensity is high. I have written previous articles on High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) but wanted to include it here as well due to the fact that it is truly a worthwhile biohack especially for those people struggling with time.
Research shows that the genetic switch which starts the body making the required structures and enzymes responsible for improving endurance capacity can be triggered through two very different ways. Both traditional long slow endurance training and the more modern HIIT result in the body improving its endurance performance. This presents some exciting opportunities for athletes who are trying to balance busy work and family schedules with the desire to train and perform at their peak.
Check out this video about different pathways that Endurance and HIIT work
The key thing about this biohack is that it also links back into number 1 and 2. Most people will get really good results from HIIT initially as they are exposing their body to something new and when you start to look at the 80/20 principle upping your training intensity is a really good way of maximising the key 20% of your sessions.
So get out there and start upping your training intensity in some of your training sessions.
If you are new to this type of training start on your bike, in the pool or kayak rather than running to decrease the risk of injury. If you have done some HIIT run work before then try and stick to soft surfaces and up hills again to decrease your risk of injury.
I hope this article has given you some useful tips that you can take away and start hacking your own training.
If you would like to know more I have made a FREE online video series about the biggest mistakes I see people make with their training and how you can avoid them.
If you have any questions you would like answered or topics you want to see covered in future articles then please just let me know.