By Malindi Elmore
It is interesting that while most people understand the concept of stress/recovery and adaptation for gaining muscle strength in the weight room, it is somehow harder to apply this principle to aerobic sports. We all instinctively know that if you do a major squat/leg weight session one day, you need to take it easy on the legs the next day. After all, it is this process of breaking down the muscles and the subsequent rebuilding which makes them stronger. If you go too long without doing weights again (5+ days) you basically end up back at the same weight you did on Day 1.
However, if you are able to stress and then allow your legs to recover every 2-4 days, eventually they will adapt. After a few weeks you will find yourself adding more weight without a major difference in the perceived workload. When your body becomes accustomed to the workload it is commonsense to make some changes and add new stimulus to your routine. This may mean adding more weight, more reps, or more sets; or it may mean changing the exercises completely.
If you continually do the same thing (volume/intensity) in your running your body will adapt easily but might not see any improvement. It would be like going to the gym every other day for a year and never changing anything in your routine. Your body thrives on change and stress (workouts), but it also requires recovery between workouts to make the fitness gains. If you wait too long between workouts then you will never see progress; on the other hand if you put too many hard workouts close together without ever allowing for adaptation, you will just wear your system down. The equivalent would be doing hard leg squats every single day without ever varying the weight, frequency, or number of repetitions.
A good training program includes a variety of training stimuli to keep your body guessing as to what is coming next. This is both within a micro-cycle (week), meso-cycle (a series of 2-6 micro-cycles) and macro-cycle (year) with competitions, including a few “target” races throughout the year. This is commonly referred to as “periodization”. Elite athletes rely heavily on a periodized training program, but often age-group athletes do more or less the same thing week in and week out, year after year. By making some variations to the weekly, monthly and annual approach to training, we can keep our bodies “guessing” which in turn often makes them fitter and stronger.
- Train at the optimal point of the rest phase
- Recover as quickly as possible
- Establish a routine and rhythm in your training
- Provide a variety of training stimulus
- Use periodization principles
- Remain healthy and injury free
Malindi Elmore is a Run SMART Project private coach. As an athlete she competed in the 2004 Olympic Games in the 1500m. She’s a 6-time National Champion and Stanford record-holder in the 800m and 1500m. To customize her 1500/mile training plan go here. To work with Malindi privately sign up here.