|AREAS OF INTEREST: PERIODIZATION, OVERTRAINING, VARIETY, CROSS-TRAINING, REST, RECOVERY.
by: Tom Seabourne Ph. D
As recently as a decade ago sports relied heavily on information passed down from competitor to competitor. To lose body fat it was suggested to guzzle soft drinks. We were told, “They burn up the fat”. We were advised to eat a concoction of raw egg and ginseng for breakfast. Sometimes water was withheld during strenuous workouts to toughen us. Experts said, “Train more, train harder.”
Many worked hard; training for a specific purpose or event. If they didn’t see improvement, they tried harder. The harder they tried, the more tension and anxiety they felt. They maximized the value of every jump or stretch to justify the time expenditure – even if their purpose for training was stress management or peace of mind.
Some enthusiasts trained so frequently that they developed overuse injuries. They thought they must push beyond their normal limits to get to the next level. Elbows, knees, and backs simply wore out. Too much training impaired immune systems, leading to colds, flu, and other infections.
Others burned out psychologically. Their lives revolved around sports. Relationships and jobs suffered. All they thought about was training and competition. The training was like drinking a glass of wine. A little bit with each meal was fine, but too much and they became alcoholics.
I received both truth and fiction from my early mentors. Before a professional full-contact fight my trainer rubbed Ben Gay all over me. I was on fire. I came out so hard and fast that I had no punches or kicks left for the last round. Fortunately neither did my opponent.
Two weeks before the World Taekwondo Championships in Stuttgart, we trained in German time. We set our alarms for 2:00 a.m., trained all day, and tried to sleep at 7:00 p.m. Most of us were sleep-deprived and miserable. We neglected to consider late flights or layovers. By the time we reached Germany, it took several days for our over trained bodies to recover from severe jet lag.
It’s easy to eat, sleep, and drink sports. You can stretch, run, ride, cross-train with weights/aerobics, and watch instructional videos. However, there seems to be a point of diminishing returns to excessive training. Athletes sometimes neglect the recovery phase of their workouts.
Most mammals are on a strict schedule of activity and recovery. Cats are notorious for lounging, but when it’s time for action they pounce. Sport is high intensity too, requiring rest periods between bursts of activity. Rejuvenate yourself between bouts of exertion. Intense effort is followed by recovery, where you prepare for your next campaign. The goal is to maximize intensity and increase your capacity to handle it. Set performance goals to determine training time and energy expenditure. But goal setting is a double-edged sword. Effortless ambitions aren’t worthy. And if your goal is too extravagant it becomes your nightmare.
Daily training should be motivational and energetic. Be sure you are on track. Enjoy a vibrant lifestyle. Attaining short-term goals provides you confidence for the long haul. Eating correctly, sleeping enough, and incremental improvements in strength, flexibility and endurance can be measured. These assessments should satisfy your day-to-day.
Pushing to the limit feels good. But maybe that is wrong. Contemporary athletes follow season long-training schedules. They know exactly how much time to jump rope, lift weights, run, and stretch from January until December. And then they start all over again. They claim they need structure in their training to have an idea of what they can accomplish. This style of training is called “periodization.”
In 1999 elite competitors realize the benefits of force pads, SportCords, and heart rate monitors to regulate their training. Anaerobic threshold, maximum heart rate, pressure indicators, and digitized biomechanical analysis, allow athletes to maximize their training time. More and more contemporary competitors believe in scientific training. A little technology can reveal signs of overtraining.
Signs of overtraining include:
1. Elevated heart rate. If your heart rate is higher than normal when you awaken, you may be overtraining.
2. Negative attitude. Inadequate recovery from training may lead to listlessness.
3. Weight loss. Overtraining can lead to muscle loss and weakness.
4. Lack of recovery. After a sporting event, you may recover slowly if you are over trained because your immune system is depressed.
5. Loss of interest. Overtraining leads to boredom and a lack of commitment.
6. Fatigue. Overtraining causes fatigue from even a mild training session.
7. Injury. Overtraining may cause overuse injuries and muscle pain.
There is more to training than demonstrating your genetic giftedness. Pacing is extremely important to exemplary performance. Knowing when to turn it on and when to rest can help you enjoy sports, reach optimal physical condition, and be your best. The hard part is distinguishing overtraining from laziness. If your knees, hips, and ankles bother you when you run, try the Aqua jogger.