What is the Goldilocks Training Principle?

by Matt Weik

How do you determine when you should be training easy, hard, or even take time off to rest completely? This is the question that hovers around the minds of lifters quite often — especially those who are just starting out in their journey. If we knew the answer, injury rates might decrease, and athletes could reach their peak every time. That’s where the Goldilocks Training Principle comes into play.

But, like everything in life, it is not easy. Each of us is a unique individual, and we respond differently to various stimuli that we subject ourselves to during training sessions.

Don’t you wish there was a way that you could tell what the right volume of training was to suit your personal goals? Well, you are in luck, as there is! In this article, we are going to discuss what it means to train “Just Right.”

The Goldilocks Training Principle

Remember when Goldilocks came upon the Three Bears’ house and tried their porridge? One bowl was too hot, one was too cold, but one was just right. When she found the perfect spot at the table, she sat down and ate her meal slowly and enjoyed herself immensely.

That’s what we’re looking for when training: The Goldilocks Principle. We want to train not too hard and not too easy, but just right to achieve the goals we set out to accomplish.

For some athletes, that means they need to train a bit harder than they want to be able to improve. For others, it means they need to back off their training so that they don’t get hurt or overtrain. Our goal is to get into the sweet spot — the place where the porridge is just right, where we can train hard enough to have great sessions without getting hurt or burned out.

It’s About Finding the “Sweet Spot”

If you do follow a strenuous, intense training program, you will start to lose fitness through negative adaptation eventually.

Every time you finish an intense training session or a long run, you will feel fatigued, and it can lead to muscle damage. When you do not follow the right exercise principles, your fitness levels may suffer as a result.

If you allow enough recovery to your training, it will provide a super-compensation effect. This effect, as adequate recovery is applied, will make you a stronger and faster runner or athlete.

If you look back over your training sessions for the past year, have you followed the Goldilocks Training Principle? Have you been exercising or running too little or too much? Have you applied the correct recovery time between your workouts to support your goals and maximize your results?

Many do not train or run hard enough, and that leads to their results being minimal, at best. Others do it too much, too soon, which leads to fatigue and potential muscle loss.

The level of fatigue each athlete can handle differs widely. Finding the “Just Right” approach and balance is important if you want to see a progression in your training.

The Benefits of a Goldilocks Training Principle

The “Goldilocks Training Principle” is a heuristic way to evaluate if you’re doing the right amount of exercise. In terms of exercise, this means that some workouts are too easy to be effective, and others are too hard to be sustainable. The Goldilocks Training Principle means finding a workout routine that’s “just right” for you.

Here are five benefits of exercising according to this principle:

1.      Push yourself out of the comfort zone

If you’re training in a manner that’s too easy, you won’t see results. You need to push yourself and progressively overload the muscles and systems to see improvements.

The Goldilocks Training Principle is an excellent way to do this because it pushes you past what you think your limits are and into a new level of performance. This allows your body to adapt and improve at a faster rate than if you were simply exercising within your comfort zone.

2.      The Goldilocks Training Principle can help you avoid injury

The Goldilocks Training Principle can help you avoid injury by allowing your body to properly recover from more intense sessions. The idea behind this is that if you are constantly doing high-intensity workouts with limited recovery time between them, then your muscles will not have enough time to repair themselves before the next session hits them hard again. It causes damage to their tissue fibers (e.g., muscle soreness and DOMS).

By giving yourself enough recovery time between workouts, your muscles will have a chance to heal from any micro-trauma caused by previous sessions, and they will be ready for their next challenge without feeling overly stressed out by it.

3.      The Goldilocks Training Principle will help you stay motivated and engaged

For people who struggle with motivation, they’ll find themselves looking forward to their workouts more often because they know what they’re capable of. This level of enjoyment can be challenging to achieve when working out on your own or with an unknown trainer at the gym who doesn’t cater their style specifically for you (which is why having a personal trainer is ideal).

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