One of our greatest frustrations as coaches is other coaches—not all of them, mind you; just those who advocate speed-focused training plans that turn the 80/20 approach we believe in on its head. It’s not that we don’t like being disagreed with. What frustrates us, rather, is the damage these coaches do to athletes who fall under their influence.
Athletes like Thomas Løvholt, a 53-year-old husband and father of three from Lejre, Denmark. Naturally inclined to push himself in training, Thomas was an easy mark for a certain coach who’d written a book on marathon training that emphasized high-intensity intervals and eschewed long runs exceeding 12 km in distance. The results were predictably disastrous. “On race day I hit the wall after 18 km,” Thomas says, “and alternately cursed the book’s principles and my own stupidity for the remaining 24 km.”
Even so, he failed to draw the right lesson from the experience and took a similar approach to training for his first Ironman in 2012, with similar consequences. It wasn’t until an overtraining-induced foot injury sidelined him from running for two full years that Thomas began to search for another way and discovered the 80/20 system. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has limited his opportunities to reap the rewards for slowing down, Thomas recently came within one minute of matching a 16-year-old half-marathon PB on a hot day in late June.
“I find that 80/20 works for me,” he says simply. “The training is less demanding and less tiring, and the result exceeds my expectations.” His only regret is that he didn’t discover it sooner!