Sunday, April 24, 2022

Don't go hard all the time

 "Any individual who is going to exhaustion on a frequent basis is absolutely not in a healthy place with his or her exercise regimen. In training, just because I can go really hard doesn’t mean I’m going to benefit. In fact, it can be counterproductive. After either training or exercising, you are worse than before you started. You are slower, you are weaker, you are less capable. It is only once there’s been recovery that there’s the possibility of being better for it. If I just go as hard as I possibly can at something there is no guarantee that I’ll actually get a positive adaptive response."

-- Sports scientist Neal Henderson [ quoted in Men's Journal ]

It's important to establish where the boundaries of basic training, steady state, and tempo training are.  On my Polar Heart Rate Monitor these boundaries are at:

  • 50-60% basic training
  • 60-70% steady state
  • 70-80% tempo  

That means at a fairly relaxed pace, one is still doing beneficial basic training.

I have this instinct, and I believe it is common, to really push myself to go faster and harder, especially at the end of workouts.  I also noticed that in the subsequent day, I don't feel as keen on working out at all, and if I do, I workout at a much lower level.

A hard 40 minute workout in the upper range of steady state training, with a 10 minute excursion into tempo training at the end.

The next day - trouble warming up out of the basic training range, with perceived effort only slightly under the previous day, even at the slower pace.

I think the argument here is that it's much more beneficial to get a bunch of hours at relatively low intensity, then to just burn yourself out physically, neurologically, and psychologically with much harder effort.

During my brief athletic career this bore out, not only in the racing results, but in the continuity, and character of the training.  It is an interesting place to be to be looking forward to hour pieces every day, when the alternative is high intensity work.  The routine becomes relaxing, and it feels like it is constructive rather than deconstructive.

Learning to do "Long Slow Distance" is a skill that one likely develops with experience.  I am happy doing hour pieces now because I learned to do them when I was a teenager.  I am happy to have my only stimuli be the display of a heart rate monitor and music because I trained myself to get something out of that kind of biofeedback.  

I don't know in naive exercisers whether working towards hour long aerobic pieces is a chore or whether people universally take the pleasure in them that I do.  I do know that the bulk of our training ought to be in the aerobic range.