Thursday, May 10, 2007

Work Hard + Recover Well

Work Hard + Recover Well = Best Performance Training – Methodological Consideration
By Prof. Dr. Jan Bourgois, Centre of Sports Medicine and Dept. Rehabilitation Sciences and Physiotherapy, Ghent University Hospital and Ghent University, Belgium
From FISA Youth Commission, FISA
Training sessions are designed to bring about improvements in athletic performance. This is achieved in part through overloading the body systems. A potential problem with modern sports is that the increasing importance and international prestige associated with elite performance may pressure athletes to train harder and harder to an extent that they are more likely to develop overuse injuries, traumatic injuries, disease susceptibility (immunosuppression), over-reaching, chronic fatigue and overtraining (Fry et al., 1992a,b).

Exposing the athlete to levels of exercise stress that are slightly greater than those he or she has previously encountered within the training program has been termed overload training (Fry et al., 1992b). In order for athletes to adapt to the overload training stimuli, the training programme must allow adequate rest, and large immediate increments in the degree of stress imposed must be avoided. Otherwise the athlete may enter an overtrained state characterized by fatigue and non- recovery from training sessions. A well-planned training programme may be the key to preventing overtraining, as it provides a system for including overload training within exercise tolerance levels and regeneration periods in proportions that will optimize training improvements and avoid overtraining (Fry et al., 1992a,b).

The purpose of this overview is to summarize the literature in the hopes of providing a solid framework for developing training programmes which must suffice until scientists can affirm or refute the ideas presented.

Fatigue from voluntary motor activity
Fatigue can be defined physiologically as the inability to maintain power output. To an athlete, fatigue is the insuperable need to reduce pace. The factors that contribute to fatigue from voluntary activity are numerous and interact in a complex multifactorial phenomenon.

Virtually every step in the chain of events that leads to muscular contraction has been studied under a variety of circumstances. The lack of a single factor inducing fatigue across the gamut of sporting activities points to the multitude of mechanisms that protect muscle from a relentless progression toward irreversible rigor (Kirkendall, 2000).

An underlying tenet in the exercise sciences is the concept of specificity. A specific type of training results in a specific type of physiologic response that, if performed repeatedly, will lead to a specific adaptation. The concept of specificity must also be extended to include fatigue: specific exercise also leads to a specific mechanism of fatigue.
The various mechanisms of fatigue in relation to voluntary activity can be summarized as follow: (1) central fatigue (neurotransmitters, nutritional aspects, choline/acetylcholine, brain dopamine, cytokines, ammonia) , (2) peripheral fatigue (neuromuscular junction, sarcolemma, excitation-contraction coupling), and (3) metabolic fatigue (exhaustion hypothesis of ATP, CP and glycogen; accumulation hypothesis of hydrogen ions, inorganic phosphate and ammonia) (Kirkendall, 2000; Wilmore & Costill, 1994).

Modelling training
The evolution of modern training methodology in both individual and team sports has been largely based on the periodisation of training volume and intensity. Despite this notion, here is no common theory of training processes that describes the type, the quantity, or pattern of a certain stimulus or a particular training program , which is necessary to achieve a given performance response for an athlete. The main knowledge is basically empiric (Steinacker et al., 1998).

However, in most endurance sports there is a consensus that training and performance are related by a dose-response relationship. Structural and functional adaptations in organs and muscles are the result of an optimal interaction between work and recovery. Improvements in performance are primarily achieved through a sequential increase in the volume and intensity of training, with a concomitant need for increased recovery and regeneration. In conceptual terms, the training stimulus can be considered as a combination of the positive (fitness) and negative (fatigue) influences of training on performance. An imbalance between training loads and recovery is a major contributor to the onset of fatigue, illness and overtraining in highly trained athletes (Morton, 1997).

Recovery is that part of the training process where the benefits of training are maximized through practices which encourage natural adaptation to the training stimulus. Training hard and training smart are not always synonymous. Recovery is one of the basic principles of training, but is one of the most frequently forgotten in training programmes (Calders, 1996).

Recovery can be seen from two points of views: (1) training intervention strategies, and (2) behavioural and self-management strategies.

Training intervention strategies
The major factor influencing athletic performance is still training. Athletic performance improves as the athlete adapts to progressively increasing training loads. This structural and functional adaptations occur after training or during periods of reduced training, termed recovery or regeneration. It is essential that adequate recovery time be included in training programmes so that adaptations can be achieved. Different training methodological means are available to realize an optimal interaction between work and recovery. Numerous coaches and sports scientists have emphasized the benefits to athletes in planning and structuring training programmes in accordance with the principles of training (Individuality, Specificity, Disuse and Overload) (Wilmore & Costill, 1994).

Adaptation to the training stimulus or workload is evidenced by improved performances. Positive adaptation to a training stimulus is referred to as overcompensation or supercompensation. If there is sufficient recovery before the next workload, the underlying system or fuel store stressed during training can improve its capacity to cope with the next stressor (Calders, 1996).

Planning and periodisation
Planning training (athlete’s career, quadrennial plan, annual plan), in a well-organized methodological and scientific manner, is perhaps the most important tool in assisting an athlete to achieve success. The long-term training process must adequately prepare the athlete in all aspects of elite performance in his/her specific event. Systematic planning of athletic training has become known as periodisation (Rowbottom, 2000). Periodisation of training is the process that devides a complete training into distinct, smaller periods of training [(a) training units (individual training sessions), (b) microcycle (1-week blocks of training), (c) mesocycle (3-6-week block of training), (d) macrocycle (preparation, competition, and transition)] of more manageable size, each with specific performance or development targets (Fry et al., 1992a). Periodisation of training is the process that has the potential, if used correctly, to assist coaches and athletes to optimise performance while minimizing the risk of overtraining.

Empirical observations and studies investigating fluctuations in performance indicate that
structural and functional adaptations of organs and muscles occur during periods of reduced training, termed taper. Taper can be defined as the reduction of the amount of training during a variable period of time before the main competitions. The main goal during taper periods is to maintain the physiologic adaptations achieved during intensive training, while the negative impact of training resolves (Mujika, 1999).

Cross-training can be defined as: (1) the participation in an alternative training mode exclusive to the one normally used (i.e. not task – or sport specific); or (2) combining an alternative training mode with task-specific training. Both types of cross training are practised, with the intent of deriving a physiological and performance benefit similar to or better than exclusive sport-specific training. Cross-training has been recommended as an adjunct to sport-specific training for athletes wishing to improve performance or reduce the risk of injury, illness or overtraining.

For performance and aerobic benefits, cross-training with dissimilar modes would be effective for participants with lower aerobic capacity. The more highly trained individuals will profit more from similar-mode cross training (Loy et al. 1995).

Behavioural and self-management strategies
Adaptation to training is accelerated when fatigued functions are restored to normal operational levels as quickly as possible after training. Planning appropriate recovery activities as part of the training programme accelerates adaptation to the training stimuli by reducing the time it takes for an athlete to reach the overcompensated state (Calders, 996).

Daily monitoring of training and testing
Encourage athletes to maintain a daily training log to record training activities and loads, physiological responses, well-being and healthy status. Implementation in the planning of a regular program of performance, physiological and psychometric testing can help to avoid injury, illness and overtraining.

Personal hygiene and nutrition
Reinforce strict personal hygiene practices. Review dietary practices (fluid and fuel for recovery) and educate athletes on issues specific to training and competition. Adopt a balanced diet of macro- and micro-nutrients.

Recovery practices and sleep
Incorporate sufficient rest and recovery into training programs. Explore the full range of recovery practices including active and passive recovery, massage, and therapeutic support. Organize quiet and comfortable sleeping quarters. Allow time for adjustment to jet lag.

One of the basic principles of training adaptation is that performance improvements are achieved by progressive increases in the training stimulus. Unfortunately, many athletes may be prone to training excessively and incorporating insufficient recovery periods into their training programmes. Finding a balance in training programmes so that the best performance can be realized without the athlete breaking down has often been difficult because many athletes and coaches are unaware of the role and benefits of recovery. Training intervention strategies (overcompensation, planning and periodisation, taper, cross-training) and behavioural and self-management strategies (daily training log, physiological and psychometric testing, personal hygiene, nutrition, recovery practices and sleep) can be used to assist coaches and athletes to optimise athletic performance while minimizing the very real risk of injuries, illness or overtraining.

Calders, A. (1996). Recovery in training and competition. Australian Institute of Sport, PO Box 176, Belconnen, ACT, Australia 2616: 1-28.
Fry, R.W., Morton, A.R., Keast D. (1992a). Periodisation of Training Stress – R Review. Can. J. Spt. Sci. 17:3: 234-240.
Fry, R.W., Morton, A.R., Keast, D. (1992b). Periodisation and Prevention of Overtraining. Can. J. Spt. Sci. 17:3; 241-248.
Kirkendall, D.T. (2000). Fatigue from voluntary motor activity. In: Exercise and Sport Science (Edited by William E. Garrett, Jr., and Donald T. Kirkendall). Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Philadelphia, Chapter 7: 97 – 104.
Loy, S.F., Hoffmann, J.J., Holland G.J. (1995). Benefits and practical use of cross-training in sports. Sports Med. 19 (1):1-8.
Mujika, I. (1998). The influence of training characteristics and tapering on the adaptation in highly trained individuals: a review. Int. J. Sports Med. 19: 439-446.
Morton, R.H. (1997). Modelling training and overtraining. J. Sports Sci. 15; 335-340
Steinacker, J.M., Lormes, W., Lehmann, M., Altenburg, D. (1998). Training of rowers before world championships. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 30; 7: 1158-1163.
Rowbottom, D.G. (2000). Periodization of training. In: Exercise and Sport Science (Edited by William E. Garrett, Jr., and Donald T. Kirkendall). Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Philadelphia, Chapter 34: 499-512.
Wilmore, J.H., Costill, D.L. (1994). Physiology of sport and exercise. Human Kinetics.

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