The top athletes in the world aren’t adhering to a “no pain no gain” model, nor are they doing highly popularized high intensity interval training or random WOD’s (workouts of the day).
Instead they are systematically alternating between bouts of very intense work and periods of easy training and recovery. The ongoing progression and development of athletes across all levels is an exercise in stress and rest in their most important pursuit.
The training of endurance athletes is a complex process. The goal of training is to stimulate the precise set of physiological adaptations needed to achieve maximum performance in a peak race.
The volume, intensity and distribution of training load and how all of these affect physiological parameters gives an insight into what it takes to be a successful distance runner. There are various ways to manipulate training for increased performance, but it is essential to understand the overall process behind how the body responds and adapts to a stimulus (workout or sequence of workouts that provokes an adaptive response).
The General Adaptation Syndrome is often referred to as the principle of supercompensation in exercise training. When a training stimulus is applied, there is an initial alarm phase where fatigue occurs, and the performance level is decreased. Following this stage with recovery, there is an adaptation phase where fatigue subsides, and adaptation takes place so that there is a supercompensation where performance increases to a level above that which it was before the training stimulus was applied. A new training stimulus can then be applied to go through the process again. It there is too little recovery, the body never fully recovers or adapts and can enter the exhaustion phase (over-training and injury risk!).
The Dose Response Relationship is another model explaining the optimal load of a workout. It refers to the interaction between the dose, the total load of the stimulus and the response, or resulting training effect.
Certain stressors can produce desirable effects, strengthening specific parts of the body that is under duress. Stress isn’t just harmful, it can also serve as a stimulus for growth and adaptation. Our adaptive stress response is rooted in inflammatory proteins and cortisol. When activated by stress, these serve as biological messengers so when the body is under threat, pre-programmed biochemical building blocks make the body stronger and more resilient.
If the amount of stress is too large or lasts too long, however, the body fails to adapt. It deteriorates instead of getting stronger- chronic stress, the exhaustion stage. The body rebels and enter a catabolic process, or a state of persistent breakdown. Rather signalling for repair and subsiding, elevated inflammation and cortisol linger at toxic levels. The adrenal system is constantly on guard and becomes overworked and fatigued leading to a myriad of health problems.
The body can withstand only so much tension before it breaks!
So stress can be positive, triggering desirable adaptations in the body or it can be negative causing harm. The effects of stress depend almost entirely on the dose and when applied in the right dose, it stimulates both physiological and psychological adaptations.
The greatest gains often follow immense struggle and discomfort with a meticulous approach to training. When you step outside your comfort zone, you will grow. Then developing a new capability requires effort. Skills come from struggle.
Just manageable challenges manifest when you feel a little out of control but not quite anxious. When the task at hand is a bit beyond your skills, you are in the sweet spot, this is what you’re after. We need to regularly venture off a known path and go down a slightly more demanding one that forces us to push at the point of resistance for growth. But we also need to pursue this growth in a healthy and sustainable way. Recovery in between bouts of stress is vital for the effort to be beneficial. Sleep needs to be prioritized-it should be reframed as something that is productive.
- THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF STRESS SERVES AS A POWERFUL STIMULUS FOR GROWTH.
- ASSIGNING THE CORRECT INTENSITY AND VOLUME OF A WORKOUT TO ELICIT AN OPTIMAL RESPONSE IS ESSENTIAL IN PROPER TRAINING.
- HAVE THE COURAGE TO REST
- THE RECOGNITION THAT EACH INDIVIDUAL WILL RESPOND TO A STIMULUS AND ADAPT DIFFERENTLY INSTEAD OF GIVING RECOMMENDATIONS THAT APPEAR TO BE A ONE SIZE FITS ALL RECOMMENDATION IS HUGELY IMPORTANT. RECOVERABILITY OF EACH ATHLETE IS IMPORTANT.
- WE ARE OFTEN AT OUR BEST WHEN WE COMPLETELY IMMERSE OURSELVES IN THE PROCESS OF GETTING BETTER