Are You Designing Your Workouts To Maximize Gains? Training Windows. What are they and why are they important?

Some of you may be familiar with the author Tim Ferris.  He wrote the 4 hour work Week and the 4 hour body.  In the 4 hour body he talks about the bike shed effect. 

He more or less said that if you were at a party and went around the room asking people how to build a bike shed most people would have an opinion or some very specific thoughts.  People would ask how big, what kind of windows, type of doors etc. However, if you asked them how to build a 50 story office building most would have no clue.  He goes on to say that the problem with fitness and getting performance gains out of your body is that most people see their body like building a bike shed and therefore think it is a simple task, having some idea how to accomplish this task.  However, the problem with the bike shed effect is that most people do not realize that their body is very complex, like a 50 story office building.  They don’t know what they don’t know. 

I spend countless hours trying to better understand how to build this 50 story office building which is your body.  Program design is a major part of success in building your body.  I design and write close to 20 workouts per day every week all with different objectives in mind. 

The workout design is a part of an overall program design strategy.  The strategy is developed first by establishing a good understanding of the current fitness of the athlete.  We also look at maturity in fitness, age, current fitness levels, biomechanical issues, needs of the sport, as well as a number of other data points. 

This baseline of an athlete’s fitness is dynamic, and even though experience gives me some ideas of adaptation time to new stimulus this component can be very different between athletes.  Age, genetics, past training, etc., will greatly influence how individuals recover and adapt to a new exercise stimulus.  Training, recovery, adaptation, progression.  These are the components that need to be designed for maximum improvement in the shortest time without injury. 

Training with Windows

I look at training like a wall of windows.  Each window represents an energy system, or aspect of fitness necessary to rise to the highest level of one’s genetic performance.   One window may represent biomechanical soundness, lower body strength, upper body strength, strength endurance, power, power endurance, mental strength, recovery etc.  There are a large number of training windows but all of them are not open at the same time.   At different points in time some windows are closed, some wide open, and some just cracked.  So when I am designing a workout I am looking first at what windows are needed to be open at a point intime and what type of physiological response I am trying to elicit.  Is the response I am trying to obtain an increase in strength, power, anaerobic endurance etc.?

Most of the general public judge the value of a workout by workout intensity. Rarely is regeneration/recovery considered part of training.    Higher intensity is better in the eyes of the unknowing trainer or individual. This is the bike shed effect in full force… however, I am trying to build a 50 story office building not a bike shed.   I see so many programs marketed today that only have one or two windows completely open all the time with the belief that fitness gains are derived by high volume moderate weight, high heart rate training.  “Burn 600 calories in an hour” is typically how the ad reads.  Ask the best athletes in the world if they are concerned with how many calories a workout burns?  They are more concerned about what part of their 50 story office building does a workout improve or create and how do they speed recovery from the effort.  

I ask cyclists I coach what they think would happen to their aerobic fitness if for 4 months all I had them do was 8x 100 meter sprints every day.  They look at me with eyes wide open and say they would never consider that because they would lose so much of the fitness they need for cycling.   In the next breath I ask them what they think happens to their anaerobic endurance if for 4 months of the winter they never do any intensity.  Some windows are open more and some are just cracked open.  In fact some windows cannot be opened until other windows have been open for a period of time.  This is how you build a fit body.  

So when thinking about the windows of fitness, think about each window representing all the components of building a 50 story office building.  All the questions that go into designing a building go into developing a body for optimum performance.  These questions will range from use, environment the building will be exposed to, sustainability, efficiency, etc.  Determine what the building’s form and function need to be, and then determine what training windows are most important at different points in time for the proper development of a particular type of building. 

I have developed strategies and tactics for hundreds of world class athletes from a myriad of different sports.   We put this same experience, understanding, and response to different types of training into every client we train, not just our world class athletes. 

We develop very dynamic programs for our athletes and we use the same science for the non-competitive athlete.

So if you are interested in the WHY of a particular workout, or series of workouts, ask and we will provide you a better understanding.  Even if you are not interested in the Why know that we are interested in the Why.  You will benefit from this interest by the improvement in your own personal fitness and performance. 

Truth in Fitness!

Jacques DeVore, CSCS

CEO Sirens and Titans Fitness