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The Ordinary Mortals: Eight Principles of Training

By Dr. Steve Jonas | May 19, 2016, 4:43 p.m. (ET)

Last year we talked about the “Basic Eight of Regular Exercise.” In summary they are:
  1. The hard part of regular exercise is the regular, not the exercise. 
  2. The best exercise routine for you is the exercise routine that is best for you. 
  3. There are many reasons for exercising regularly, other than for race training. For example, there’s feeling better and feeling better about yourself and helping you organize other areas of your life.
  4. Regular exercise can help in the prevention and management of certain diseases and negative health conditions.
  5. Gradual change leads to permanent changes.
  6. Explore your limits; recognize your limitations.
  7. Effective mobilization of your motivation is the key to long-term success.
  8. We can never be perfect; we can always get better.
There is another “Basic Eight” that I like as well. They will help you get going and keep on going, on a rational basis, whether you are starting from scratch or ready to begin race-specific training or even if you’ve been racing for a long time. Indeed, starting my 34th season of multisport racing, I have been. I call them "Ordinary Mortals Eight Principles of Training." I originally adapted them from precepts set down over 30 years ago by the world-renowned running coach from Oregon, Bill Bowerman (Walsh): 
  1. Training must be regular, according to a long-term plan. Going all out one week (or month) and then doing little or nothing the next is, at a minimum, a recipe for injury and/or quitting.
  2. The watchword is moderation. This is a relative concept for each of us.
  3. The workload must be balanced, and overtraining must be avoided. (This follows from principles one and two.)
  4. Goals should be clearly established. They must be understood, and they must be realistic (otherwise they will become obstacles to the facilitators they should be). 
  5. Training schedules should be set up with a hard and easy rotation — both from day to day and more generally over time. 
  6. Regular rest should be scheduled. While some folks work out every day, I know that that just doesn’t work for me. I usually take one day off per week during the season and also schedule several quite light weeks during it also. 
  7. Whenever possible, working out should be fun. It’s not always possible. But boy, working out is a lot easier when it is!
  8. Gradual change leads to permanent changes (just as in the “Basic Eight of Regular Exercise).
In my experience, both sets of eight work very well, both in keeping us focused and in helping us to make sure that our racing is a positive experienced for us, not a negative one, at whatever level we compete at. As many of you know, in multi-sport racing I started out slow, 34 years ago. In recent years, approaching the 80-84 year-old age group of which I am now a member, I have been getting even slower. For this season, after a couple in which I didn’t get to race much for a variety of reasons, I am hoping to get back into it on a more regular basis. I know that the two eights are right there in mind as I prepare for the season and hope to start it at the beginning of June with the first lake-swim triathlon that I have done for several years now. At any rate, do know that you will be going along for the ride with me this season. I hope that that experience will be a good one for both of us. And I hope you are having a fine racing season yourself!

Walsh, C., The Bowerman System, Los Altos, CA: Tafnews Press, 1983, chap. 3.


This series of thoughts and recommendations about multisport racing by Dr. Steve Jonas is, over time, drawn in part from his book, "101 Ideas and Insights for Triathletes and Duathletes" (Monterey, CA: Healthy Learning/Coaches Choice, 2011), from which text is used with permission. The book can be purchased here and is available at and

Steve’s most recent multisport book is "Duathlon Training and Racing for Ordinary Mortals®: Getting Started and Staying with It" (Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press/FalconGuides, 2012), available at and

His first book on multisport racing, "Triathloning for Ordinary Mortals®" 2nd Ed. (New York: WW Norton, 2006) also can be found at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Dr. Jonas recently was featured in World Class Magazine. Click here to read the article.