It’s been my experience (both personal and from a coaching aspect) that runners are the most stubborn organisms on the planet!! They always want to go hard, they want to run every workout faster than the previous, they want to run more miles when they aren’t ready, they want to run beyond their current limits (both physical and mental)…Essentially, majority of runners are a “now, now, now” breed and they expect to have a shiny new PR for every training run and every race.
They will put every ounce of their being into the training, but often turn a deaf ear to rest, recovery, regeneration, nutrition, strength, etc.
No matter how much you preach it, it seems that nearly every runner has to experience this for themselves before they will even consider listening and learning from it. Sometimes the learning process is only fatigue and slight burnout, sometimes it is serious injury that keeps them from running pain free or at all, for months, years and or ever in some cases.
In “layman’s terms”, in order for your body to get out what you put in, you MUST account for more than the training itself. You must understand that in order for the body to absorb a workout, you must first stress the body, then recover from the workout, regenerate from the workout and finally, adapt to the workout.
Let’s say you were studying for some big exam. Would you feel more prepared if you could have several weeks to study for it, as opposed to only a day or two?
The same can be said for training!
You should never go 100% in training, or even beyond 90% (with the exception of short duration repeats) for that matter. When you consistenly “cram” as much intensity or volume into your workuts than what your body can handle, it’s’ only a matter of time before your body breaks down and you begin to negate any benefits of the workout.
A while ago, I stopped basing my fitness by race performances, but instead by a combination of other achievements. Who cares if I can run a fast marathon, if I can’t walk the next day? These days, I base my fitness on not only how well I do in the race (finishing time), but also how well I feel in the race and also by how well I recover from the race.
The day after my last marathon, while most people were walking down the stairs backward, I worked on my feet all day, then went for a run the next evening.
How did this happen? Recovery and nutrition!! During the race, I prepared my body for the post race. While running, I made sure I was taking in proper ratios of electrolytes, amino acids and minerals to speed up the recovery process, even before I was actually finished with race.
The purpose of a workout, is to provide a certain and structured amount of stress to the body (but not too much). You should think of it as “Every step needed, but not one step more”. What does this mean?
Let’s take running as the example. Let’s say your coach gave you a workout of 6 x 1 mile repeats at 6:00 pace. The pace and the volume were carefully selected so that you are providing your body with the right amount of stress, in respect to your goal race. The pace, depending on your goal and skill level, was likely selected for one or more reasons. The pace could be intended to simulate race pace and get your body in the groove of running that pace, or it could be to build Vo2max, etc, etc…..So, what if you were feeling good and decided to knock the repeats out at 5:40 pace? This pace, being significantly faster than the intended pace, would likely mean that you were pushing the body too hard, thus, throwing off hormone balance, pH balance and likely overstressing the musculoskeletal system to the point of pushing toward overuse and extreme fatigue. At the very least, you likely hindered and took away from your next specific workout.
In other words, a 5 gallon bucket will only hold 5 gallons. Constantly trying to milk out every extra rep, mile, second, repeat, etc., will only leave you overstressed and likely falling short of your long term goals.
To avoid falling prey to injury, fatigue, burnout or plateauing, you need to ensure that 3 things are happening.
1.) Adequate Stress and Adaptation – Every key workout should have a purpose! You should expect to push your body to a specific stress point, but not any further. Do not be afraid to swallow your pride here. Who cares if your training partner decided to do “one more rep” when the workout called for a specific number. You will likely see him/her on the sideline while you are on the starting line. Never be afraid to cut a workout a bit short if you aren’t feeling right. Tiredness and general fatigue is common in hard training blocks, but never push through pain, sickness or extreme exhaustion.
2.) Recovering/Regeneration – After you have adequately stressed your body, it now needs time to recover and regenerate. When a body is stressed, an adaptation process is triggered and the body begins to repair itself, building up an immunity to that stress so that it can readily handle the stress at a later point in time, if and when that stress is reapplied. In order for this adaptation to take place, the body must rest and go into it’s regeneration phase. This is the phase where sleep, maintenance and nutrition all work together to create a fitter, stronger and more resiliant athlete. Without this cycle, the body will not absorb all of the stress that was applied. How upset would you be to discover that for every 10 miles you run, only 6 count? That is the way to look at the recov/regen cycle. You put in the work, so make sure it counts!!
3.) Fueling and Re-Fueling – In order to make the most of your workouts, you need to ensure the body is properly fueled. Clean, healthy eating. Fueling and re-fueling also fall under the recov/regen cycle and can pretty much be all inclusive. After a hard workout, the body has been taxed and has been using all of it’s energy stores to keep your body going. If you do not replenish the energy stores, the body cannot recover properly, thus, taking longer than necessary to bounce back from the workout.
Hard workouts cause acidosis in the body. When this happens, the blood pH levels become too acidic, thus throwing off the normal functionality of the bodies fine tuned systems. The foods we eat play the biggest role in keeping pH balances in check. Take a look at the link to see what foods/drinks make the body more acidic or alkaline. http://www.drscottgraves.com/naturopathic/alkaline-acid-diet/
Aside from worrying about pH balances, the body also needs certain nutrients, minerals, vitamins, etc in order for the body to perform and function as designed and in the most efficient way possible, as well as to repair and recover from intense bouts of exercise.
How many of you actually know WHY the body needs Calcium, Potassium, Sodium, Magnesium, Taurine, Beta Alanine, etc? These common electrolytes and amino acids are some of the key players in how the body performs, especially the endurance athlete’s body.
A quick example is the role of Taurine in the body (Below text taken from online sources).
Taurine is essential for cardiovascular function, and development and function of skeletal muscle, the retina and the central nervous system.
Taurine is conjugated via its amino terminal group with chenodeoxycholic acid and cholic acid to form the bile salts sodium taurochenodeoxycholate and sodium taurocholate. The low pKa of taurine’s sulfonic acid group ensures this moiety is negatively charged in the pH ranges normally found in the intestinal tract and, thus, improves the surfactantproperties of the cholic acid conjugate.
Taurine crosses the blood–brain barrier and has been implicated in a wide array of physiological phenomena including inhibitory neurotransmission, long-term potentiation in the striatum/hippocampus,membrane stabilization, feedback inhibition of neutrophil/macrophage respiratory burst, adipose tissue regulation and possible prevention of obesity, calcium homeostasis, recovery from osmotic shock, protection against glutamate excitotoxicity and prevention of epileptic seizures.
It also acts as an antioxidant and protects against toxicity of various substances (such as lead and cadmium). Additionally, supplementation with taurine has been shown to prevent oxidative stress induced by exercise.
I know a lot of the middle paragraphs are more appropriate for a chemistry major, but you athletes pay close attention to the first and last sentences.
Taurine just happened to be the example here, but many other key nutrients, amino acids, electrolytes play even greater roles in how the body functions.
So, no matter where you are in your training and fitness schedule, it is never too late to make changes and adjustments. All you runners out there know what it feels like when you miss key training runs. Start learning to take the same approach and the same intensity into your rest and recovery cycles, your nutrition and your regeneration. If you can put the same efforts into all of the components that that make up a quality training cycle, you will become a better athlete for it.
Until the next post, train smart, have fun and HAPPY TRAINING!!