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Optimal Vs Practical

By: Mat Steinmetz

This piece was brought on by a few things that came up over the past week. The first was a consulting call I was doing with another coach and the second was during a presentation I was giving at the Tri Shop in Texas.

I started thinking about all the advice I’ve given out over the years. All the advice I’ve read from other coaches and professionals who are working/racing at the highest level.

Most of the coaches I know who work with professional athletes also work with age-group athletes unable to devote their lives to athletic performance. However, when given the platform, coaches will almost always advise from the highest level.

This information sets the standard for what is optimal and can leave a lot of athletes searching for more space within their daily routines. The reality is that it’s next to impossible to reach your potential if athletics aren’t your primary focus. It's better to focus on optimizing the training time you have within your current life situation. This balance will ensure that you stay employed, present to your family, and hit realistic performance goals.

There is no need to be discouraged…as a working athlete, you can get in the same key sessions as athletes with unlimited time. Your sessions will just be spread across a greater timeline as your workout frequency and supplemental sessions are limited during the work week.

During my presentation last weekend…I kept thinking about this idea. At one moment, while in the middle of talking equipment optimization, I stopped and addressed this issue with the crowd.

I started with the fact that there is nothing I’m presenting here that can’t be done or is unattainable. But, that I don’t think any less of their intelligence if they chose to not apply all the information I was presenting.

A lot of decisions in this sport come down to money, goals, and desires. If you’re out there and you want to sacrifice a bit of performance for convenience or comfort, I’m fine with that.

This was also the preface I gave to the coach who asked how I setup my athlete’s seasons. I went off on a tangent, but knowing this coach will have read everything available, I thought it was an important point to make.

Is it optimal to only swim 2x per week? No, not if we are talking about “what it takes”. But, is it optimal for someone who works a full-time job, married with 3 kids…Yes!

There are times when we have to sacrifice what we see as optimal, for what is practical.

Know, that these articles aren’t going anywhere. A lot of people enjoy reading about what the big guns are doing in the sport. Just understand the context in which they are written.


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