Training itself actually results in a breaking down of bodily tissues; it’s the rebuilding phase, when muscle cells are reassembled and certain enzymes increase in concentration, in which fitness gains actually occur. It follows that no amount of training by the most durable runner will be effective training unless sufficient adaptations occur between training bouts.
Recoverability, as with the connective-tissue adaptations that occur throughout years of ever-increasing training volume, is impossible to measure directly. But there are clues pertaining to both its enhancement and its ultimate limit within any one body. Runners may recall their earliest days in the sport, when a run that produces no detectable damage in the present left them sore for two or three days and thus hampered further training. And those who have been fit but then experienced extended layoffs know all too well that one of the biggest issues in returning to the fray is dealing with feeling beat up all the time in the beginning of the “comeback” phase. Part of getting fitter—be it going from zero to some modest level or from reasonably fit to the best shape of one’s life— is bouncing back more quickly between sessions. But as with all physiological traits, everyone’s maximum potential recoverability is different, with the implication that some people simply can’t train as hard (or as much) as others despite being equal in every other measurable respect. This principle is underscored by the fact that distance runners have been known to take certain types of anabolic steroids (nandrolone perhaps being the most common in the past couple of decades) which do not promote bulk, but speed recovery time by promoting rapid muscle repair. These banned substances don’t make anyone faster per se; instead, they allow for harder effective training.
There are ways to ensure that your recoverability is close to its potential maximum, however. For one thing, running on forgiving surfaces such as grass and dirt (or even treadmills) entails less pounding and shortens recovery time. Being careful to keep glycogen stores above ground level by re-fueling as soon as possible after every run is also key, as is—at least according to some research—a high-protein diet. Finally, adequate sleep is necessary if you want to take advantage of the running you’re doing rather than simply log miles.
Cortisol, an hormone produced in the adrenal glands in response to stress that has a variety of “anti-recovery” effects, is found in higher levels in sleep-deprived people; this is only one of the reasons why you’ren’t going to recover as well if you’re not getting enough sleep. Simply put, you can log as many miles as you like, but if you’re only getting four or five hours of sleep a night, you might as well be tossing those miles down a well. Yes, you’ll be punching the clock, putting in miles and burning calories, but you won’t be getting any more race-ready if you aren’t recovering.
In Part 4 of this series, Kevin Beck will explore how your own psychological quirks to a large extent dictate how much you should train.
[sig:KevinBeck]Pages: 1 2