Why is recovery so important for performance, and how can we manage it?
Training doesn’t make us fit, the adaptations from training stress; the increased muscular endurance, improved cardiovascular ability and all physiological adaptations that occur in response to training is what makes us fit.
That means that in order to become fitter, we must recover from training. Sure, we need periods of stress on the body to encourage these adaptations, and learning to manage that stress without risking over training or injury is the balance that all athletes and coaches strive to achieve, and we see evidence if it going wrong all the time, whenever we hear about athletes picking up training injuries. So, no wonder ammeter athlete struggle to understand it.
A very easy way to monitor your training is simply keeping a record of your training hours, or distance. If you use a tracking device such as an app on a smart phone, fitness tracker or Garmin or a similar product, then your workouts are probably already logged online. look back over months and even years’ worth of training data too see your training patters, and use this to make informed decisions about increases in training volume etc.
You can also use this to spot trends in training during periods when you may have performed well, or conversely picked up an injury so you can see what you were doing and make the necessary adjustments to rectify your training to avoid it happening again.
Some sites, like Strava for example, assign a ‘suffer score’ to each workout based on HR, power and duration since not all sessions are completed to the same intensity. Using and logging this suffer score you can keep track of how many suffer points you incur in a week, and use this as a way of monitoring the stress response to your body. For example you might work on 350-375 points per week for 3-4 weeks, then have a low volume week where you try only get up to 200-250. It’s not hugely accurate, but it does make you aware of training and recovery.
At the top end of the scale is software such as Training Peaks, that use algorithms to calculate data from power meters, heart rate and speed all using scores from swim, bike and run tests for each athlete to set a base line. And, that last bit is the key to what makes this so much more personalised. By giving each workout a Training Stress Score (TSS) and plotting this on a graph you can the effect of accumulated stress over the last week, and over months of training with feedback on estimated fitness levels, as well as fatigue levels.
This can give coaches and athletes insight into and athletes current fitness state, how fatigued they are, and how ready they are to perform at their best. Going even further, this data can then be used to estimate the stress of future sessions so that the perfect taper towards a race or event can be achieved.
While there are clearly many ways we can track our training and fitness levels, some more in depth than others, it’s important that to optimise our health, fitness and reduce the risk of illness and injury, we take steps to ensure we are in some way monitoring this.