Avoid overtraining

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Running is good for body, mind and soul. But too much running (as is often the case with just about everything else in life) is not. The right balance of running, active rest (or cross training) and recovery is crucial to effective and efficient training. You must pay attention and adjust your training accordingly when factors such as family, job, sleep, illness and diet affect your ability to exercise.

Training + Recovery = Increased Efficiency

Training is one very important component to becoming a more efficient runner. Yet, optimal performance occurs only when the training stimuli is balanced with a solid recovery plan. Each workout leads to fatigue and a dwindling of the energy sources. After the workout, it is imperative that an athlete replenish those energy sources and recuperate to receive the full benefit of that workout. By continually breaking down the body with workouts and then recovering from those workouts you experience an ‘overcompensation’phase and you’ll see a boost in performance. On the other hand, training too soon without adequate recovery can lead to overtraining which can manifest itself in fatigue, performance degradation, increased heart rate and a weakened immune system.

Sufficient recovery leads to over-compensation and an improvement in performance.
Sufficient recovery leads to over-compensation and an improvement in performance.

 

Training Balance

The right balance between the intensity and the duration of the sessions should be monitored. Typically, a rest or recovery day follows an intense run day. This easy day can include very light running, or, better yet, an alternative activity like swimming, biking or nordic skiing. Also, the long run day should be well planned and worked around. If a training session must be moved, other training during the week may need to be modified or skipped. Your running.COACH training plan will adapt to external circumstances.

Don’t try to fit everything in if it’s just not going to work. To avoid overtraining, it’s best to err on the side of caution. With that said, your running.COACH plan has been laid out to maximize the training effect, so try your best to stick to the plan.

Your running.COACH plan, which is tailored to the days you can train, ensures the correct sequence of training stimuli.
Your running.COACH plan, which is tailored to the days you can train, ensures the correct sequence of training stimuli.

 

Nutrition and Body Signals

Your diet plays a significant role in your ability to handle the training stimuli. Your everyday food choices play a large role in your overall performance. The food you eat before, during and after your workout help with both today’s as well as tomorrow’s workout. As important as anything else, keep the fun in your training and listen to your body’s signals constantly. If you’re feeling tired and worn out, it’ll be counterproductive to do a hard workout. Your body’s signals or feelings should overrule ‘what’s today’s workout’in your calendar. This way, you’ll reduce the risk of overtraining, and in the long term, get more joy from your running.

Lots of success and fun with your training!

This blog was written by Ingalena Heuck, sports scientist and German Champion (2010) in the half-marathon.

Well-trained fat metabolism or ‘why less is often more’

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The Conconi Test is a sports medicine test intended to measure an individual’s maximum anaerobic and aerobic threshold heart rates. The test measures a person’s heart rates at different loads (e.g. faster speeds on a treadmill). The points are plotted on a graph with heart rate on one axis and load on the other axis; the graph’s deflection point indicates the aerobic threshold. The heart rate increases (approximately) linearly up to the deflection point, where the heart rate reaches AT (also known as LT, lactate threshold, in more modern nomenclature). The test continues for a while, under increasing load, until the subject has gone well past the anaerobic threshold.

In addition to the Conconi test, an ambitious endurance athlete can use a cardiopulmonary exercise test called a Spiroergometric test. It’s a physiological test that does an analysis of your oxygen inhalations and your carbon dioxide exhalations to give you your aerobic and anaerobic threshold. In addition, it will tell you how well trained your fat metabolism is.

Training zones I-IV
Training zones I-IV

When we talk about endurance training, there are four different physiological training zones (Zone I-IV). These zones are named differently depending on the sport. Training in Zone I predominantly uses an aerobic energy supply. Aerobic is defined as ‘with the aid of oxygen’. The mitochondria, or power plants of the muscles, are used during aerobic exercise. The metabolism of fat accounts for more than 50% of the energy supply for Zone I. Consequently, muscle glucose storage ( glycogen ), is preserved. There will also be no measurable increase in blood lactate concentration.

In the transition zone ( Zone II ), the energy supply is both aerobic and anaerobic. The increase in blood lactic acid concentration can be measured, but lactate production and the body’s ability to flush out the lactic acid stays in a state of equilibrium. The carbohydrate metabolism plays an increasingly important role in the energy supply.

Zone III corresponds to the anaerobic training area. Carbohydrate metabolism is predominant. This leads to a continuous increase in blood lactate levels and an imbalance in the production and reduction of lactic acid. The body can no longer keep up with this acidification of the muscles, and sooner or later (depending upon the individual’s fitness level), the intensity must be reduced.

Zone IV corresponds to a sub-area of Zone III. This zone is only for short interval loads and is all anaerobic. The duration an individual can stay in Zone IV is a few seconds to a couple of minutes in a highly trained athlete.

Training zones, aerobic and anaerobic threshold graphed during a spiroergometric performance tests
Training zones, aerobic and anaerobic threshold graphed during a spiroergometric performance tests

An analysis of the training of various endurance sport athletes (eg marathon runners, cyclists or skiers), show that over 66% of the training volume takes place in basic endurance zone of Zone 1. Zone II is only for very specific training and not a zone to spend much time in. Zone III should comprise about 15-20% of the training. Training in these zones helps to optimize fat metabolism and trains the body to preserve the glycogen reserves. Sprinkling in higher intensity Zone III workouts helps to maximize oxygen uptake and improve overall running economy.

Fat metabolism efficiency can be measured with a spiroergometric performance test. This principle is shown in the following two graphs:

 

A mountain biker with a very well-trained fat metabolism (red arrow). This is characterized by the athlete’s glycogen reserves (glycogen - black arrow) not being used up until later. AT: aerobic threshold.
A mountain biker with a very well-trained fat metabolism (red arrow). This is characterized by the athlete’s glycogen reserves (glycogen – black arrow) not being used up until later. AT: aerobic threshold.

 

A triathlete with an insufficiently-developed fat metabolism : (black arrow) with left shift by the aerobic threshold (AT) and an earlier depletion of glucose reserves (glycogen – black arrow). Basically, it takes less time for the triathlete to start burning glycogen as opposed to the mountain biker.

 

running.COACH applies this model to their training programs. This way, there is an optimization of fat metabolism, improved oxygen absorption, and a focus on greater variation and less monotony with the training.

This blog was written by Dr. Luke Trachsel, Cardiovascular Prevention, Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine, Swiss Heart and Vascular Center, Inselspital, Bern.