Getting the most out of every session: PEAC training
The benefits you see from a training programme are as much a result of your approach as they are a result of the programme itself. Sets, reps and exercises only tell half the story. The way you go about your training, the level and kind of effort you exert, the degree to which you align your intention and behaviour with the purpose of a day’s workout: these things determine how much progress you make; not the exact percentages of a squat cycle or how many sets of bench press you are doing.
Below I outline the structure I use for introducing daily workouts to our members when I am coaching a class. You can use this structure as a kind of mental checklist to make sure you are approaching each workout with the appropriate focus and strategy.
PEAC – PURPOSE – EXPERIENCE – APPROACH – CUE
This is the basic structure I use to introduce a class to the day’s workout. First, explain the purpose of the session. Then describe what kind of experience the workout should be. How should it feel? After that I explain how I want members to approach the workout and finally I touch on some simple verbal cues that will help them stay connected to the purpose of the workout and the approach I’d like them to take.
The first thing I always highlight when introducing the day’s workout is the purpose of the programming, the intention of the workout. How is the stuff on the board supposed to benefit the athlete? Is it designed to increase endurance, to improve lactic threshold, to better gymnastic skills and endurance, to get stronger? Whatever it is, make sure you are aware of WHY you are doing a certain workout. Now, I definitely won’t always use technical terminology and it doesn’t always have to be super focused but you should have in mind the intended stimulus of the programme. This will help motivate you to put in the required effort as well as provide a context for HOW to approach the workout. Know the why first.
As far as I am concerned, this is just as important as PURPOSE but in quite a different way. Each workout is an experience as much as it is a tool to achieve a certain end. The quality of the experience is just as important as effectiveness. Why? Because interesting, challenging and involving experiences keep trainees motivated and engaged which in turn helps them get fitter and healthier down the road. And, hey, I want our members to have fun in the gym too.
In fact, sometimes we will programme workouts based more on wanting to deliver a certain kind of experience than on wanting to elicit a certain adaptation. Partner workouts are a good example. Sure, the work / rest nature of these sessions lends itself to working on certain physical capacities. But we programme partner workouts mostly because they are fun to take part in and build a powerful sense of community. Hero workouts are another good example. Doing Murph may not be the best way to build fitness but it is a hell of way to get people to experience adversity and the mental challenges of getting through a mountain of work. These kinds of workouts can develop character as well as fitness.
If you are training on your own, aim to figure out what kind of experience your workout should deliver. Or, perhaps better, decide what kind of experience you want to have and then design your workout around that.
Now we move on to the HOW as opposed to the WHY or the WHAT. Given the purpose of the workout and the kind of experience it should involve, HOW should athletes go about attacking it? The logic from Purpose to Approach should be straightforward. If you’re working on aerobic capacity you will need to slow things down and aim to keep any rest intervals as short as possible. If you are doing Fran, you’re going to need to ditch any pacing and attack the hell out of it.
Your approach is a set of clear and simple objectives for how you will tackle the work. Aim to make them as succinct as possible and make sure they align with the purpose of the programme. These might be things like the below:
“Rest periods kept to 3 deep breaths”
“Slow, steady pace”
“Stay right on the edge of the red line”
These edicts form a general strategy for how to tackle a workout. It will sometimes be useful to have a set of specific tactics too. So, as well as the above, you might have:
“Sets of 5 on the HSPU”
“Keep row to 1 cal per stroke”
“Run 400s under 90s”
“3 sets for each round of thrusters”
With a general strategy and a set of specifics tactics you have a very clear idea of what you intend to do with the workout. You know what you expect of yourself and you will be able to perform the workout in a way that is consistent with it’s purpose.
Finally, in order to really dial in their focus, I give a super simple verbal cue that I ask members to coach themselves with during the workout. Here I am looking for a coaching cue which keeps the athlete connected with their entire approach, strategy and purpose with a few words. It could be something as succinct as “Breathe” or it might be a directive like “pick up the bar”. Again, whatever it is, it needs to make sense in the context of the purpose and approach for the session. The cue functions as a kind of affirmation, serving as a simple reminder of why an athlete is doing the workout and giving them a sense of resilience and strength. Athletes should repeat the words to themselves throughout the workout.
Use the PEAC structure to maximise the returns you get from each session. Ask yourself:
“Why am I doing this workout? What do I hope to get out of it?” PURPOSE
“How should this workout feel when I’m doing it?” EXPERIENCE
“How should I go about taking on this workout? What should I aim to achieve throughout the session?” APPROACH
“What one verbal coaching point will I repeat to myself whenever things get a little tough?” CUE
If you use this method of approaching your workouts you will get much, much more out of your training. Have fun and get PEAC!
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For those of you interested in the details, below are a few example workouts with the PEAC breakdown applied:
3 rounds for time
30 DB squat cleans 22.5/15
PURPOSE: to increase aerobic capacity and endurance. To improve muscular endurance and the capacity to move a heavy objects at a high volume and long duration. Character building too!
EXPERIENCE: This is going to hurt. It will feel very, very long. Be prepared to feel like the dumbbell sets will never end. This will be a mental challenge as well as a physical one. Negative thoughts will arise.
APPROACH: This needs to be paced. Any time below 40 minutes is good. Therefore, think of this as if it were a 10km run. Go slower on the run than you think you need to. SMALL sets on the dumbbell cleans. Smaller sets than you think you need. One long, slow set on the burpees. Your goals is to avoid crossing the threshold where you start taking long rests.
CUES: “One rep at a time”. This workout is long and if you let yourself think about how much is to come, you will get disheartened. Go rep for rep and you will get through it.
9 minute AMRAP
9 DB push press 22.5/15
9 chest to bar pull ups
9 burpees to target
PURPOSE: To increase lactic conditioning / endurance at high intensity. To improve upper body muscular endurance, particularly in the shoulders.
EXPERIENCE: This one will sting. Your shoulders will be burning because each movement taxes the upper body. This will also get gassy pretty fast and you will feel your lungs on fire.
APPROACH: Go after it, right from the beginning. The only thing you should consider breaking up are the chest to bars. If you think you may break on the push press, go lighter. I want you to go fast with no strategy and see how you hold up. Prepare yourself mentally to push through some pain.
CUE: “I can suffer for 9 minutes” This one will be all about turning off the voices in your head telling you to slow down. Remember: this is only 9 minutes. You can make it hurt for 9 minutes. It will be over before you know it.