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Why we train and how we recover.


Our body is constantly changing and adapting to our environment. Homeostasis is the constant up-regulation and down-regulation of our organs and systems to try to keep balance in the body. The body likes balance; it likes continuity; it doesn't like the disturbance of homeostasis.

Photo by Rachael McIntosh http://www.rachaelmcintosh.com/yycity

Little disturbances, such as entering an environment that is more hot or humid, or more cold and dry, is a disturbance to the body's homeostasis, and in order to minimize the disturbance to our "normal", we begin to sweat, shiver, or the like, to bring us back to a more normal baseline.

Training disturbances are similar. If we sat on the couch or in our desk all day for months, the body would experience little physical disturbances to it's homeostasis, and without hormonal and neurological cascades stimulated to make changes, we would begin to down-regulate bone density, muscle mass, and many other processes that were not needed. Remember, the body doesn't like to exert any extra energy it doesn't need to. It wants to hang on tight to it's fat stores and energy stores, and wants to maintain homeostasis as much as possible. If sitting on the couch requires little to no muscle mass, bone mass, or lactate production, the body will not work hard to keep those systems running at full-capacity.

In order for our bodies to adapt to a given training load, a certain level of stress must be applied to the body. If the stress is great enough, it will insinuate a cascade of events such as a hormonal response, to aid us in the future when we repeat the training. Again, the body loves homeostasis, and if it can be more efficient at producing energy for a given training load that you ask of it, it will adapt to be a little more efficient each time. Cue a training stimulus, where that 1k run that felt like a 10/10 effort last week, now feels like a 9/10 effort a week later.

Recovery is the most important part of training and is underestimated typically in training programs. If you recover quickly, you can train again more quickly, or in some cases, you can get in more days of training. Recovery in the body, is defined by restoring the psychological and physiological resources that allowed the athlete to tax these resources again. We discussed above why stress on the body is important for impacting change to our body and adaptation to a new stronger, faster, more enduring body, but the changes to our "normal" baseline can only take place during the recovery process. This usually encompasses active recovery (proper cool down for example), passive recovery (therapy for example), and proactive recovery (a purposeful action to aid recovery). Sometimes, just changing the environment is as good as rest (changing the training up).

Speed athletes or individuals training for physical competitions (CrossFit, Powerlifting, Olympic lifting, contact sports, sprinting, cycling or rowing races), tend to have training programs that incorporate multiple training sessions throughout the day, plyometrics, eccentric loading, body contacts, high intensity work, resistance training, and skill sessions among other components. These types of fatigue are under the umbrellas of metabolic fatigue, tissue damage, neurological fatigue, and psychological and environmental stresses.

Typically, without proper monitoring of training load and physiological effect, athletes become tired as the season progresses, exhausted and stressed as the physiological stress stacks up, overtrained, or sick more often during the season than normal. They may even experience none of the above, but notice that they are not adapting to a given training load, are not getting any faster, or are not getting any stronger throughout the weeks. Speed kills in the sense that without proper recovery from speed sessions, or taxes on the neurological system, the body may not recover from the stress building up, and homeostasis will not be achieved before the next taxing session.

Photo by Rachael McIntosh http://www.rachaelmcintosh.com/yycity

So, how do we prevent SPEED work from killing our gains? Proper recovery of course. Possibly the most important factor for repairing neurological fatigue from speed training is sleep and rest (both passive and active). Also important on the list of techniques that can help are hydrotherapies and massage. Hydrotherapies can include simply pressure on the body from water (taking a bath) or cold bath therapies.

Get to bed... take more naps... and yes, that is advice from a professional ;)

Carla Robbins


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