One of the most overlooked aspects of successful training in the Western World is that of regeneration. Regeneration is the product of sound training and methods that help in repairing athletes to function better. Recovery (or rest) and restoration (return of energy, hormonal, or other levels) are entwined in this process, but do not provide a complete picture in and of themselves. Regeneration can be looked at as the optimized integration of these and various other factors. Regeneration in sport can also be defined as:
1. Continuous management of muscle tension, structure, and tone
2. Accelerated removal of the effects of fatigue
3. Rapid restoration of energy systems and energy substrates
4. Improved ability to renew physical activity, without wasting the athlete’s energy unnecessarily.
Hydration, nutrition, active and passive recovery methods, as well as additional supplementation can and should be optimized to enhance performance.
The Training Diary provides an area for recording these factors under “Regeneration.” Hydration status heads this section (H2O) and provides space for “IN” (or intake) and “OUT.” Intake can be recorded as an actual amount, or most usually as good or bad. Record a value you can use and understand. “Out” is simply the number of times of urination each day. A hydrated value for “out” is usually a bathroom visit five times or more each day.
A meal/nutrition log follows. Space for seven meals (or “feeding opportunities”) is included. What you eat, when you eat, and how much you eat will all affect performance and restoration. Tracking and modifying your nutritional habits to fit your needs, day-by-day and training phase-by-training phase, is key to complete restoration and your best performances. Space is provided to the right to notate what you feel you need to track. This could be as simple as good, great, or poor; or as detailed as listing some or all of protein (P), carbohydrate (C), fat (F), and/or calories for each meal or just at the end of the day. At the very least you should record your daily meals until you have a baseline for optimal regeneration to work from. General reference points for hard training and peaking are 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight, 3-4 grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight, and around 15% of total calories coming from fat intake. It is not so important that you hit these exact numbers (maybe not important at all), but that you understand the amounts/ratios that help to enhance your performance.
This note and the following questions are received from a coach just North-west of London, England.
“I coach on a voluntary basis and have a passion to ensure I give the very best to my swimmers and ensuring that they arrive at the championships in March in the best form they can. All help and guidance is gratefully received.”
Question #1. Variable Speed swimming Distances/ Efforts- Does that mean to use all energy systems ? And would any of the sets be at or near race pace? I have perviously planned my season using Counsilman and Maglishco reference books and am therefore familiar with EN1, En2, En3 and so on.
Answer #1. Variable speed focuses on the ability to change speeds at will, to never over train either the fast twitch or slow twitch muscles. Throughout the season you will see Race Pace added into sets, especially the months during taper. Changing the effort during sets increases work load and the aerobic capacity quicker than grinding out yardage. The mechanics of strokes have changed a lot as well as training methods. This as is evident by the amount of speed at the USA High School Level. Swimming is finally following the lead by track coaches to train athletes for a specific event. Training yards or short course meters is key to training speed and puts more emphasis on starts, turns and momentum. Take what you need from Counsilman and Maglishco as they have obviously helped swimming more than I can give them credit for in this newsletter. We all learn from the past just don’t get stuck in it.
Question #2. Legs – Yardage at 50%, does that mean, if say for example I had a total distance of 3000m for the session 1500m should be legs only? Also does the phrase mix it up, shown on Monday of week 1 apply to everyday with legs at 50%?
Answer #2. Do the best you can to have 50% of kicking a day during the first part of the season. It is hard to write in and motivate the swimmers to do this but they will taper better and have more speed for all events. As you know the legs muscles are big and require more training than coaches think. I’ll take less yardage and more kicking any day. Do the best you can to be creative and do lots of variable speed to increase the aerobic gains from kicking.
Question #3. Basic Format – Alternating upper body and lower body by Set. Would that mean one set pull, one set of legs?
Answer #3. Yes, or just a swim set alternating with a kick set. Swimmers don’t kick as much as they should and will focus on upper body work during a swim set, so I use a swim set for upper body and pulling is great also. Work in what is best for the talent you are training.
OK… No nonsense here – just some thoughts on training pertaining to what I’ve been reading lately and how I train my teams (swimming, track, and many others). No particular order, but the pieces do fit:
A. Training regularly, systematically, and progressively are keys to obtaining the desired goals of training (better competitive performances!!).
B. The real effectiveness of training depends to a large extent on the quality of distances covered (or movements performed) at high velocities.
C. Training intensity is directly proportional to your competitive results.
D. Double practices can benefit several fitness factors, and optimal recovery is required to reap these benefits.
E. Train as hard as possible, as often as possible, while staying as “fresh” as possible.
F. You must develop neuromuscular capacity to improve maximal speed; maximal speed being an important predictor of both sprint AND endurance performances.
G. Greater speed depends on greater force production, quicker force production, and improved stability and coordination. These attributes are not developed in a day or a week, but over the course of seasons and years.
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!