For the competitive runner, one of the major keys to success & happiness in running is understanding what we are trying to accomplish in training and how we are going about doing it. By understanding this we can implement our training more effectively and catch and correct mistakes more quickly so that our training becomes more effective. This in turn leads to improvements in fitness and success on race day which builds confidence and happiness. And it is often reassuring to us to understand the path we are on and how it will get us to where we want to go.
"Stress specifically enough to earn a certain adaptation, then recover sufficiently enough to receive that adaptation."
This simple, succinct one sentence, when understood, can go a long way in explaining what we are doing and how we are best off approaching our training. And this can help lead us to happiness and success.
As I talked about in an blog entry earlier this year, training for running (and all physical training) centers around the Stress and Recover Principle. We stress the body in a specific way to elicit a desired adaptation (such as improve our VO2 Max or lactate threshold or endurance) and then we let the body recover from that stress and once it has we achieve that adaptation and become fitter than we were before.
When we get frustrated in training and stop seeing improvement or get run down or worn out, all things that can cause unhappiness, we need to objectively analyze each part of this stress and recover process and see where the problem is. By identifying the issue early on we can correct it and get back on the road to success and ultimately happiness.
So lets make a check list of the major things to look at when things start going awry:
- Are the stresses specifically focused enough to elicit the desire adaptations?
- Are you targeting the right adaptations for the demands of our goal race?
- Are your workouts too big or too hard, thus requiring too much recovery time?
- Are you executing the workouts in the correct manner?
- Are you doing your stress workout before you have adequately recovered from our last stress workout?
- Are you running too much to properly recover in a reasonable time?
- Are you running too fast to properly recover in a reasonable time?
- Do you have other life stresses (work/life/family/travel/schedule) keeping you from recovering as quickly?
- Are you running too slow on our recovery days (i.e. hurting our bio-mechanical efficiency & habits)?
- Are you running to short on our recovery days (i.e. allowing certain adaptations to back-slide)
- Are you properly hydrated so that the body can recover quickly?
- Are you properly fueled so that your body has the building blocks needed to recover quickly?
- Are you getting enough sleep/rest to be able to recover well?
- Do you have any vitamin or mineral deficiency or other health issues that may be compromising your ability to recover quickly?
The more predictable our life schedule is the easier it is to manage all these aspects, but life is not always predictable or routine so when something comes up we need to recognize early on how that will effect our stress and recover principle and adjust our training accordingly. It is not a matter of toughing it out it and getting by like we all try and do sometimes, it is a matter of honoring the stress & recover principle and optimizing it to get what we are after (improved fitness). Sometimes that may mean an extra recovery day when needed or by cutting back on a run or workout. But better to do that then trudge on and get sick, hurt or burned out or even just go stagnant.
If you have a coach they can be a great help to you and managing many aspects of this. They should know what workouts to do and when and how much is doable and how much is too much on the recovery days, but they need you help and input as well. You know all the factors they can't see such as sleep, hydration, diet, supplements, work/life stresses. So communicate well with your coach to ensure you are honoring and maximizing the stress and recover principle and thus promoting your success and happiness in the sport.
Coach Mark Hadley