Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Recovery, Recovery, Recovery

Today, I wanted to take a little more about my training plan. I do not have time to take about the entire plan, but I figured I would describe one element, namely recovery. As any physiologist will tell you, performance gains don't happen while training, but happen while recovering. Well, that is not exactly true. The you do develop skill and form while training, and these things do greatly affect performance, but your actually muscles only become quicker and stronger while recovering.

A young and healthy person's body can recover quite quickly from strenuous exercise, often within 24 hours. But the body's ability to recover can be overrun by repeated, lengthy, and strenuous training, requiring more recovery. If the body is not able to keep up you will suffer from "overtraining," a condition where your body is too weakened from prior training and is unable to recovery. Some symptoms of overtraining are poor performance, a high resting heart rate and even illness.

When I first started training I never added in rest periods because I figured that I would miss workouts, and those missed workouts would be my rest periods. I also thought that each of the three sports I was training for was sufficiently different in how it utilized my muscles that I would be able to recover from one sport while training in another. For example, if I swim day one, then day two when I am running, I am recovering from swimming. Now this is partially true, but what I did not consider is that the cardiovascular system it self is shared. So while my arms may get a break, my heart and lungs are not. I had a few days where my heart rate would not respond like it should to stress, a definite symptom of overtraining.

So now I have revised my plan to incorporate periodic recovery periods, or "periodization." Different plans use different forms of periodization, but generally they include weekly, monthly or annual periods. I will use all three. For weekly recovery I will have one day a week where I do not training. It will either be a day where I am unable to train for whatever reason, or if I make it through a whole week, I will just force myself to take a day off. The day will give my heart and lungs a weekly break, and a chance to fully recover. I also am incorporating monthly recovery periods, but instead of completely stopping training, I will take recovery weeks, every four weeks or so, where I will scale back on the duration, intensity and frequency of training. The current week is such a recovery week. This morning, I went for a swim, but instead of swimming for 60 minutes I went for 45, and I will not take a spinning class tonight. At the end of the week I should be well rested to go back into intense training the following week. And while it is far off now, you can incorporate annual recovery periods as well. It is usually a good idea for athletes in the off season to take at least a month off from training or at least do only easy training.

Now I have only started to incorporate these ideas into my training program, but I have seen results already. I haven't seen elevated resting heart rates and haven't gotten sick. (But I still do have this annoying cough!)

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