Low-Intensity Training

When it comes to training, more isn't always better. Your body (and your mind) has limits. Once you reach a certain point, more training becomes over-training.

Over-training is of course something to worry about. However, there are many athletes who think they're training at the optimal amount, but in reality, they could be doing more.

After a few hours of high-intensity training on the practice field and in the weight room, they may think they have done enough for the day. They are convinced that they need to rest. This may be true since there is only so much high intensity training you can do everyday. However, they may be forgetting that while they don't need to be doing any more high-intensity training, they could still do more "low-intensity training" that adds very little wear and tear to their body.

The problem is that many athletes and coaches laugh at the idea of "low-intensity training." They think that training is only worthwhile if it's high-intensity, but this is not true. While high-intensity training is better than low-intensity training in general, low-intensity training can still be beneficial, especially if you've already done the maximum amount of high-intensity training that your body can handle.

So when an athlete comes home from a tiring practice, they may say their day of training is "good enough" and call it quits for the day. But if an athlete really wants to get better, they would want to do more. Obviously they shouldn't do more high-intensity training, which would just lead to over-training. But they could do more low-intensity training. Low intensity-training can come in many forms. Here are many examples of low-intensity training:
Practicing technique in front of the mirror
Practicing footwork technique slowly
Practicing jump shots while not using much physical effort
Practicing other finesse skills that don't require that much physical effort
Practicing catching and other hand-eye-coordination drills
You can even do some light jogging if you're aiming to improve your cardio
And of course, you can practice active recovery by stretching, massaging, etc.

Most of these things can be done for hours without putting too much stress on your body. But most people don't take advantage of this low-intensity training because they think they have already done "enough."
Remember, being a good athlete isn't just about having great fitness and athleticism. It's also about having good technique, skill, strategy, and mental toughness. Much of these things can be trained without exerting much physical effort.

But even if you physically have done all that you can do, and can't even do low-intensity training without passing the line of over-training, you can still do low-intensity training in the form of mental exercises. Mental exercises include things such as:
Progressive muscle relaxation
Goal setting
Reading sports psychology books
Studying film

It's important to understand that low-intensity training is only low in physical intensity. They still require your best mental effort!

However, like I said above, the mind also has limits. There's only so much high and low-intensity training that you can do before getting mentally and emotionally burnt out. This too is a form of over-training. At some point, you need to take a break and rest and recover mentally.

It is also important to understand that low-intensity training is meant to complement, not replace your high-intensity training. You should first focus on completing your high-intensity training for the day. After this, then you can focus on training more in the form of low-intensity training.

As an athlete, you need to ask yourself if you can and should be training more. Have you done enough high-intensity training? If not, do more! If you have, ask yourself if your body and mind can handle more training in the form of low-intensity training? If they can, then do it! Don't call it a day until you've reached the point of over-training, but haven't passed it! If you do this, you will maximize your improvement with minimal risks. By doing this, you'll surpass your competition, succeed, and reach your potential!

If you want to learn more about the science of low-intensity training, I recommend reading Play On.