In many sports, a no-pain-no-gain culture remains pervasive. Whether it is necessary or helpful to program athletes to “go hard or go home” in any sport is debatable, but one thing is certain: It doesn’t work in endurance sports!
That is the lesson Mike McPharlin learned when, after a lifetime of playing soccer, he transitioned to triathlon in his mid-30s. Knowing only one way to train—all-out—the Chicago-based teacher and father of two suffered one injury after another and went in search of a way to break the cycle. “I started to think about how I was training,” he says. “Ever since I was in high school I had always trained with the idea that the harder I pushed myself, the better shape I would get in. This was instilled in me from soccer coaches I had. I really loved the structure of training plans but was terrible at pacing myself with different intensities. I figured this was the root of my injuries so I started looking for other ways of approaching this.”
In 2017, Mike discovered the 80/20 method, bought in, and saw immediate benefits. “The injuries all but disappeared,” he recalls. Where health leads, performance follows, and in 2018 Mike found himself performing at a whole new level in XTERRA events, trail runs, and gravel and cyclocross races. He believes that what worked for him can work for any athlete caught in the no-pain-no-gain mindset that once held him back.
“The best advice I can give is to be patient,” he says. “It may feel at first that you are going painfully slow, and you probably are, but your body is adapting. Give it time and the changes will be noticeable.”