Welcome to my weekly recap and recovery.
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I know pretty pathetic, right? After my pitfall 2 mile run last Sunday, when I was so exhausted, I realized I needed a break. My body was just so tired. I started to do some research on taking a break from exercise and what I found out is that there is a consensus among trainers, coaches and athletes, that can be best summed up with this simple phrase, “Not so fast.” It turns out that one of the best things you can do for your next athletic ambition/competition is to take some downtime, make sure you have ample recovery period.
Coaches have known this forever -– ordering track stars, quarterbacks, cyclists and basketball players to take a serious break after every season, to let the mind and body recover. More recently, exercise physiologists have identified potential markers for cumulative fatigue, spikes in enzymes, for example, associated with inflammation and muscle damage. Get back into working out before you shed all that built-up fatigue, and you can guarantee substandard performance later. That’s what I was feeling these last couple of weeks. My body was telling me I need time off to heal. Another key phrase, I like to throw around, is “listen to your body”
The Truth About Recovery Is That You Never Really Recover
To understand how this works, and I apologize in advance for getting all technical on you, but we need to talk about some basic biochemistry. You see, we don’t actually get fitter at the gym or on the road or in the pool. What we really do during these hard core workouts is we break down muscle fibers, which causes the adrenal glands to secrete the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. These two hormones tells our body to wake up.
The “getting fitter” part, comes afterward, while we are eating and resting. Our body gets to work repairing tissue damage, strengthening our heart and other muscles. Our body also restores depleted fuel reserves and gets better at transporting oxygen throughout our body. Our body makes all these changes in order to be a little more efficient and stronger than before.
So we first stress the body to stimulate change, and then let it recover and adapt -– so the cumulative effect of all these adaptations is that we find ourselves fit enough to run a marathon, lift a heavier weight, or play the best game of our adult lives. The problem is that we usually don’t completely recover between workouts. Some of the fatigue stays with us, gradually accumulating during long periods of intense training. Even as we get fitter and fitter, the mechanisms of recovery and adaptation begins to decline, putting us at risk for chronic exhaustion, difficulty sleeping and loss of motivation, evidenced in part by build up of creatine kinase and urea, two by products of muscle break down.
Getting Rid Of Every Last Bit Of Fatigue
Did you know that top athletes typically aim to reach peak fitness about two weeks before a big event? Two weeks before the big event, the athlete will head into what is called the “taper” period. Research has shown that cumulative fatigue fades away quickly those first two week after stopping strenuous training. While fitness fades very little, meaning that the athlete can show up on race day still in great shape but far more rested, allowing for optimal performance.
So the take away message is: The secret to optimal performance, is to take a break long enough to let all signs of fatigue disappear
Do you ever take time?