So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

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Pensacola, Florida, United States
Husband. *Dog Dad.* Instructional Systems Specialist. Runner. (Swim-challenged) Triathlete (on hiatus). USATF LDR Surveyor. USAT (Elite Rules) CRO/2, NTO/1. RRCA Rep., FL (North). Observer Of The Human Condition.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Recovery Is Underrated

"Recovery. That's the name of the game... Whoever recovers the fastest wins." - Lance Armstrong
Locals haven't seen a lot of me lately; some assume it's because I'm injured or quit running/racing altogether. Nothing is further from the truth. I'm spending more time doing something I could have done better in the past. In order to perform well at my goal events this autumn I'm spending more time on the treadmill, on the elliptical trainer, on the bike, in the pool and - believe it or not - easier efforts on the road. It isn't as fun as road racing. You don't get any awards for doing base training. Maybe that's why it's so overlooked. However, this isn't about me as much as it is about you.
If you participated in every area race since the beginning of the year (Here in Pensacola the first race is not long after New Years' Day, goes until early May, then stops over the summer. Racing then resumes in earnest around the middle of September & reaches it's crescendo right before Thanksgiving.) it might be too late to talk about whether it is time to recover; that time might have been long past. While hard work - long runs, speed work, tempo runs, terrain/event-specific workouts - are important, what is more important (I'm reminded by reading the thoughts of coaches & physiologists) is what Alan Couzens calls "the intelligent distribution of work."The first time we encounter a particular stress during training (say, a workout of 800 meters four times, with 100 meters walk recovery, at "up-tempo fresh" pace) our body becomes alarmed at the assault. Once the body adapts to that stress it compensates to deal with it, making you more fit...for a time. However, extended exposure to the same stress (say, due to a lack of variety) eventually leads to exhausting adaptation; you could end up worse off than when you first started doing that particular workout. That's what makes a variety of training stressors important. The same (4 x 800 in this case) workout that provided a 100% performance benefit at New Years', if done without any change, would provide, if you’re lucky, only a 3% benefit by Memorial Day.A season of hard training - or racing - that is too long leads to a performance plateau, or to fatigue. If you don't ration your efforts wisely over time, you can expect a relative plateau after three months & a decline in performance in five. Backing off the efforts by 1/3 of the normal volume one week each month, & one month each year won't hinder performance a bit.Each athlete needs to know the best length of training period, volume of training, & intensity of training for their goal. This means taking time to quantify not only how far/fast you went, but how intense it felt, & how you felt during the next workout period. You can do this by Borg (perceived effort) scale, average heart rate during the workout, resting heart rate each morning, hours of sleep, relative fatigue...I think you get the picture.Recovery, as the smart people say, is underrated.

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