When training to compete we increase our
fitness by recovering from our training. There are several models
to describe training and it’s after effects, the most popular
and recognized of which is the single-factor model. The single-factor
model proposes that training is the stimulus for super-compensation,
and that repeated bouts of gradually increasing intensity result
in gradually increased fitness. Basically: train, recover to a higher
level, train again, recover to yet a higher level, etc, etc. This
model, however, does not take into full account the factor of fatigue.
The two-factor model of training takes fatigue
into full account. The two-factor model proposes both a long-term
fitness after-effect from training, leading to specific fitness
(aerobic, anaerobic, etc.); and a short-term fatigue after-effect,
leading to specific (aerobic, anaerobic, etc.) fatigue. Throughout
much of our training, fatigue masks fitness. A high work load in
training, especially in a concentrated block or multi-sport training,
can cause a much more pronounced fatigued state. The athlete themselves
may have an exceptional level of fitness, but performances can suffer
or become stale if fatigue is not taken into account and managed.
The ONE time of the year fatigue should not mask fitness is during
a peaking phase (otherwise known as tapering).
There is a lot more to all of this – but
the take-home message is to be aware that your training produces
both fitness and fatigue, and that fatigue can mask your actual
fitness level much of the time. So how much fatigue is too much?
Your Resting Heart Rate (RHR) can tell you a lot. After a couple
of off days from training, simply take your heart rate as soon as
you wake up. Don’t go to the bathroom first or take your HR
after breakfast - measure your HR as soon as you wake, while still
in bed. This will give you a base-line measure. If during the training
week your RHR differs upward from your base-line RHR more than 6-8
beats per minute, take it easy that day. You can still train in
this state, but a recovery-type of training day may be in order.
If your RHR differs upward more than 9-10 beats per minute, a day
off is probably in order. Anything under 6 beats difference and
you should be good to go. I say “should” and “may”
because every athlete’s response to training and ability to
recover is different.
These are some general guidelines for you
to track your recovery and monitor your fatigue, and if you stay
on top of your recovery, your true fitness level will be accessible
when you need it!
by John Coffman, FasterSwimming.com Contributing