Athos Perspective: Don Faul

Training Smart > Training Hard

I grew up playing sports. First soccer, later baseball, basketball, football and even swimming for a brief stint in high school (that did not go well). As a kid, sports were a huge part of my identity - my friends and mentors were the people I spent time with on the court or the field. I took pride in my athletic achievements and worked hard to compete at my best. Sadly, I realized pretty quickly that I lacked the talent to pursue a career in sports...but that didn’t stop me from competing.

I had the opportunity to play rugby in college and for a short time after and have, in some fashion, continued to compete ever since. In college it was competing on the rugby field, later it was as a Marine, today it’s in the gym or on the trail. Given my somewhat irrational competitive side, I’ve always trained hard to make sure I could compete at my best. My training followed a very simple philosophy.

Great Training = More Training

More, more, more. More miles, more reps, more weight. Sound familiar? I suffered through back injuries, shin splints, hamstring strains, exhaustion - in my quest to compete at my best. Recently, I discovered my irrational focus on more, more, more was actually holding me back. It turns out I had it all wrong.

Great Training = Smart Training

Turns out that more isn’t always better. Sometimes, your body just needs to rest. Additionally, every athlete is different. Athletes need to approach their training with a personalized training strategy that is in-tune with their individual body. Elite trainers and athletes listen to their bodies and carefully shape their training accordingly.

Athos has helped me train smarter. Athos, where were you when I was in college?

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(Look at those bird legs - it’s pretty clear my time in the weight room wasn’t well spent)

My Passion For Training

Within the past couple of years, I’ve learned volumes about how sophisticated athletes train. In learning more, I’ve discovered that the way I’ve trained since high school has been unsophisticated, leaving me with chronic injuries and suboptimal results. Upon joining Athos about two years ago, that changed.

While I don’t play on a team anymore, I still feel like I’m competing every time I show up to Crossfit or to run on the weekends. There’s no way Ryan is going to beat me in this AMRAP, and how dare that guy pass me on the trail.* I take pride in improving my personal bests and in feeling strong. With a busy job and three kids, working out is a great balance and release for me. And I still feel like an athlete.

Empowered By Athos

After learning about the science of strength and conditioning over the course of the past couple of years, I’ve come to realize that my old approach to training was leading to injury and suboptimal results.

Since then, my training has evolved tremendously. I think an integral part of that shift has been influenced by having a set of tools that help me understand the impact of my training on my body, one of those tools being Athos. Back issues that have plagued me since the Marines have been effectively addressed by better understanding mobility issues, poor mechanics and imbalances - all informed by insights about how my body was responding at a muscular level through Athos.

Now I keep a close eye on my total training volume, how balanced I am and if I’m using the proper muscles to perform certain movements. Recently, I’ve discovered that I have persistent weakness and a lack of flexibility in my left hamstring, which has previously led to minor injuries. I’ve also learned that my overall training volume has been too high to give my body adequate time for recovery.

A Day In The Life With Athos

My Crossfit gym does a great job with programming, and our workouts are posted the night before each session. I’ll usually check out the workout before I go to bed to know what I’m in for the next day. I usually wake up at 5am and program the daily workout with the Athos Online Training Center.

When I get to the gym, I open my workout plan in my Athos app, and I’m off to the races. A couple hours later, I’ll log in to the Athos Online Training Center to review my performance and progress towards my goals.

I keep a close eye on my training volume, intensity variances throughout the week and any imbalances that could be precursors to injury. I’m currently using Athos to recover from Achilles tendonitis that is likely the result of some movement inefficiencies that I’ve been able to identify.

alt alt alt Identifying a potential problem: This graph shows systemic imbalance on my runs over the last month. My left side, darker shade of blue, has to work ~15% harder than my right, lighter shade of blue, to do the same work. This coincides with some Achilles tendonitis that I’ve developed. I wasn’t sure what exactly was going on but was concerned and, given my stubborn nature, didn’t want to stop training. I've been motivated to address this as I'm a prime candidate for an Achilles rupture.

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Identifying the root cause and developing a strategy: This graph shows that imbalance is most acute with my left hamstring. Working with my physical therapist, we’ve been able to use Athos to identify the root cause and develop a recovery strategy. We use Athos each week to track progress.

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Tracking progress and adjusting: We’ve been working hard to improve my ability to activate and use my left glute (which will take the load off my hamstring). This graph shows progress on glute raises, improving contribution from 22% to 35% over a couple weeks.

Achieving Goals with Athos

All training programs consist of a series of workouts and movements that have been prescribed to achieve a particular outcome. That outcome is usually to increase strength, power, speed or endurance.

Understanding the actual impact that prescribed training has on an athlete’s muscles gives coaches the information they need to identify gaps - and they can adjust that athlete’s programming accordingly. We’ve found that even the most sophisticated coaches and athletes learn something new with Athos that helps them adjust their programming and improve their desired outcomes.

Quite often, as a result of mobility restrictions, bilateral imbalances, poor form or injuries, an athlete’s performance doesn’t achieve that coach’s desired intent.

While I’m no longer competing in an official capacity, training will remain an important part of my life. With that in mind, I want to ensure that every minute I spend in the gym or on the track is going to deliver the best possible results.

Transitioning to a more thoughtful and informed approach to my training has helped me achieve personal bests at age 41. The most ideal outcomes are possible when you have thoughtful, personalized programming informed by the right data about your body. Training with Athos has fundamentally changed the way that I think about training and the body. And it’s a pretty cool job too.

If you're interested in using Athos to empower your training check out the Athos Training System.

About Don

After graduating from the Naval Academy in 1998, Don was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps. He served two tours as an infantry officer and did two combat deployments overseas. After returning from Iraq in 2003, he decided to leave active duty to pursue the next phase of his career.

He was accepted into Stanford Business School, where he spent two years preparing for his next role. He joined Google full-time in 2006 after graduating from Stanford and spent just under two years there, where he learned about how to solve problems at scale in a fast-paced, dynamic environment. He then joined Facebook in 2008 and spent four years building and leading their Online Operations team. In 2012, he left Facebook to join Pinterest as COO, where he was responsible for a number of the company’s business functions.

Don has now been at Athos for about two years, where he leads the company as CEO. Athos is a training system consisting of high-performance gear with embedded biometric sensor that captures muscle activity in real time. Athos is the only internal measure of training load at the muscular level for an individual athlete and team. Users can utilize the Online Training Center to build plans and track periodization of their programming during training and rehabilitation.

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