Friday, May 15, 2009

Overtraining and under-recovery, Part 4 - A little physiology

This post will be the last and was by far the hardest of the series. I starting it in late March, after missing a full week of training because I'd been working too hard. I had the kids to myself for a long weekend, worked until late in the evening several days, and spent 3 days out-of-town. I had my travel kit of adjustable dumbbells, rings, and a jump rope, but the thought of squeezing a 30-minute workout in around my work commitments never quite gained traction. As I watched my carefully planned programming fall to pieces, I kept berating myself for falling off the fitness wagon, but the two times I came close to motivating myself to get in a workout, I realized that I was severely under-recovered, short on both sleep and good food. Whether my decisions that resulted in me missing an entire week of training were the right choices in each case, I don't know. However, I decided at the time that getting enough rest was more important to my fitness than getting in a workout.

I previously discussed
the difference between overtraining and underrecovery, but physiologically they are often identical phenomena. Training produces an adrenal response, where our bodies enter flight-or-fight mode in response to the release of hormones like epinephrine (adrenaline), cortisol (hydrocortisone), and norpinephrine. In the short term, this has lots of helpful effects, like increased alertness, improved glucose and fat metabolism, reduced inflammatory response and pain sensitivity, even improved memory. In stress situations, our bodies respond hormonally to boost our metabolism to enable us to adapt to the stressor. This response is similar whether we're dealing with mental stress from moving, loss of a job, or our wedding or with a physical stress, like a 10K run, short-intense workout, or an olympic lifting meet. The stress response is good. It improves performance in the face of the stressor. However, when the stress levels remain elevated, the body's response to the stress changes. We can't remain in a heightened metabolic state all the time. The effects of overtaining and chronic stress begin to appear: fatigue, increased inflammation, lowered metabolism, and a weakened immune system. (Note how these effects are the opposite of those produced by adrenal homones in the short-term. It's almost like a low-level adrenal fatigue, or more likely a reduced sensitivity to the hormones (because elevated cortisol and ephinephrine levels are associated with overtraining). I'm also craving carbs more than usual - probably because my body gets used to the elevated glucose levels that correspond to states of stress.

As I balance training and my insane project at work, I've been hyperconscious of the potential for being underrecovered from one or the other. I simply can't afford a few days off to illness, and I have no desire to injure myself in advance of the Qualifiers. When I got his project I knew the two events, this project and Qualifiers would be adding stress to my life in parallel. There's a beautiful symmetry to them - the final presentation for my project is the day before the Qualifiers. (For my next trick, I will attempt to avoid a letdown after these two events.)

In coping with this fine conjunction of events, I'm pretty sure I'm erring on the side of undertraining. I've dialed back the intensity, not in the gym so much as the way in which I drive myself to workout. If I feel fatigued, I don't push it. Instead, I make an effort to eat well and plenty and get my sleep. To date, my performance hasn't suffered much. I may not be peaking for the Games, but I won't be a mess either (at least not until halfway through the first workout).


I've been skipping out on the posting of workouts lately. I haven't been working out much, but I figure time spent doing that is better than typing away at the computer. (Remember, I started this post in March.) It two Saturday's ago that I ran a 5K. I got a mediocre time.

May 2, 2009

Run 5K - 25:12

The noteworthy thing in this was how messed up my legs felt during and afterwards. Since I have colitis, my immune system can get me jacked up when under stress. Aside from the ordinary symptoms of blood loss, I can get an awful athritic response. This run was one of those days. I pushed through OK, but my left knee hurt like hell afterwards. Some of it was IT-band related, so foam rolling helped. I'll just have to hope we don't hit a long run at the Qualifiers. I'm no good at them anyways.


May 6, 2009

10 C2B pullups
10 ring dips
Burgener warmup and snatch skill transfer exercises
Shoulder triplet
Boz OHS drill

Skill work
3 position: hang snatch-OHS couplet 45x3
Snatch 75x3x2, 95x3, 115x1x2

Snatching Fran - Mid-Atlantic Qualifier WOD

    95# (squat) snatch
    C2B pullups

Didn't push this, as my shoulder was unhappy during warmup, but it felt better as I went along and I sped this up in the 2nd and 3rd rounds.


May 9 & 10, 2009

Attended Greg Everett's Olympic seminar. This will get it's own detailed write-up, because it's more deserving than anything else I've thrown up here. Saturday we worked the snatch, and Sunday we worked the clean & jerk. Set PRs in the snatch and clean, but was too spent to try to set a jerk PR.

Heavy stuff
Snatch 165#
Clean 225#
Clean & Jerk 185#


May 13, 2009

25 DB swings, 35#
10 C2B pullups
10 ring dips
Hip mobility drills
Deadlift up to 250#

3 rounds:
    10 Deadlift, 250#
    15 C2B pullups
    30 squats


Jenn said...

Sounds like you're erring on the side of smart, Patrick. You're still managing work out on a fairly regular basis, and not pushing yourself when you know your body doesn't truly need it. I've observed that doses of sanity like this can be pretty rare in the CF community at times. :p

Meriah said...

Good luck at the Qualifiers!!