The goal of training is to get better. But how is this actually happening, and why is it not working the same for everyone?
After a good training block, we usually feel everything but in good shape. After a hard session, our body doesn't feel fresh anymore, and waking up a day later might worsen. This sounds pretty terrible, but what doesn´t feel good physically for the moment can feel pretty amazing mentally - when knowing everything is just fine.
How there is a good and a bad pain, it can also feel good being tired or bad. Today I want you to feel good about being tired the right way.
To get this good feeling, it helps to understand what training actually does. Good training sessions make your body systems feel uncomfortable; we also can say with training, we stress our systems, i.e., our muscles. Our muscles, or other body systems, don´t like the feeling of being uncomfortable and want to make sure to adapt to the training load they just experienced. For that, those systems level up. Later on, when the same training impact hits the system again, our body, and our muscles, don´t feel as uncomfortable anymore. That´s how we get better.
Of course, this will not happen overnight - it is a process. We can not just set one training load as high as we wish our cardiovascular ability to adapt to. (Just to name another example in the whole system.) That would be too simple and too boring. It also would be pretty painful, to train something or body is not prepared for at all. It would lead to overtraining or injury. Coming back from those events will take longer than you like and because of this long time period between this block or session until the next possible training impact, you will not even have a training effect - but a good learning ;)
But this is why training is structured with sessions that give enough load, sessions that balance hard sessions out, and recovery.
Again, training in the right dose triggers the systems that make us a better athlete. I already mentioned what happens, when it is too much, and where there is too much, there also can be too less. When we train not long enough, or too less or too low of intensity we are not triggering the systems. The stimulus will not be high enough and there is no need to adapt to a higher level. It sounds obvious, but I see it happen, that athletes take the “easy” route and wonder why there are not improving.
There are some parameters like age recommended training load, heart rates, speed, distance, and maybe lactate numbers which are all great for an orientation, but along those numbers I also think it is good, to develop a feeling for the right zone of training. This is individual and to feel when it is getting too much and also when the training is not enough is a skill. To evolve a skill like that takes some experience throughout the years of training.
To get a feel for what's too much, it might be okay to get out of the recommended zone, to make own experiences. Doing this every once in a while doesn´t lead to overtraining right away. Overtraining happens when the load is too much over three weeks or more. So don´t worry when pushing a little bit over once or twice, just don´t skip the recovery.
On the other hand, you either will feel or see, when the training load was not enough. You will feel it when you don´t have any energy swings because hard training of course is tiring. If you are never tired after a session you can load up, if you are crazy tired after every session, you need to rest and then scale down a bit. When training was too less (or too much), you see it through your performance. When you don´t improve during the training season, your training was not effective.
As higher the level you are competing at, as harder it is to improve. But of course, we never want to get worse. If performance goes down, it is a must to have a deeper look at the training log - if no other obvious reason, like a long injury, could have caused the problem.
Now we talked a lot about training, but a good training stimulus is only half of the process. An athletic body needs recovery time to actually be able to adapt. That´s why periodization is critical to improving performance. After sessions and training blocks, the body needs to get the chance to recover from the load. During this time athletes give all the trained systems the chance to adopt. When done well your body is experiencing something, which is called super-compensation – compensating up to a higher level than we ever have been before. At this level, we want to stop the recovering phase and give the body the next stimulus.
If this sounds hard, don´t be discouraged! I´m finding it harder writing this blog post than it was stimulating my body systems with training. But don´t get me wrong! Just because something seems to be hard, it doesn´t mean that it can not be fun. Making hard things look easy and fun is the whole goal. But about that, I wrote in another blog post called: Training For The Olympics Is Hard But Easy
Of course, training has much more to provide than physical fitness. Every sport has a technical component and some more than others. Those improve through training as well, but I do believe, that technical skills build up even better on good physical skills.
Now I wish you fun making your body systems just uncomfortable enough, that they feel the need to improve and you can enjoy a new level of performance.
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