Fitness- it’s the one thing we as athletes strive to continually develop. So we do more of what we strive to become specifically better at, thus making us fitter ? Simple ?
Yes, But not quite, at the surface gaining fitness may seem as simple as doing your specific sport more frequently, possibly extending durations and perhaps even increasing the intensity of the activity. Thus leading to fitness gains right ? The answer is, it depends.
In my experience the equation is often more complex than simply doing more – more often.
Let’s take a step back.
What I am about to discuss isn’t anything you haven’t heard before – many of us know this but for many your actions do not support the fact that you know this.
Frequency, Duration, Intensity – If we increase One or Two of these within our training week we will get fitter? Once again IT DEPENDS.
Doing more doesn’t always mean you will become fitter there is more to the equation than that.
Let’s take a look at how we can give ourselves the best chance of getting fitter.
Fitness is created by increasing our training load while also recovering to the best of our ability.
Training Load + Adequate rest = Adaptation ( Fitness Gain)
Training Load + Inadequate Rest= Overreaching ( Static or Declining Fitness)
One of the terms I like to use when thinking about Fitness is Absorption- how well can you absorb your training load, the better you are at absorbing training load likely the better the athlete you will become.
Let’s break this down into a simple idea.
Think of it like 2 sponges. One is big, the other is small.
Let’s give them names:
Big sponge – Athlete A
Small Sponge – Athlete B
Now let’s say that both Athletes are twins and physiologically the exact same in terms of current fitness level, Training history etc.
Now they both complete the exact same training plan over a 12 week block. The only difference being that Athlete A sleeps 8-10 hours per night and focuses on ensuring he/she keeps solid nutrition habits over the 12 week programme. Whereas Athlete B gets 5-6.5 hours sleep per night and has 1-2 takeaways along with a few beers at the weekend during the 12 week programme. To be clear the size of the athletes sponge has been determined in this instance by the emphasis on recovery (Sleep quantity/quality + Nutrition).
If we visualise a small puddle of water (Training Load) on the floor Athlete A (Big Sponge) when needed can absorb the puddle of water easily and leaves the floor almost completely dry.
When Athlete B (Small Sponge) tries to do the same he can only soak up about 50% of the puddle. Leaving a lot of the water behind.
At the end of the 12 week block Athlete A (Big Sponge) is Running, Biking, Swimming faster and better than ever. His/her Vo2 Max and FTP (Functional Threshold Power) have seen massive increases.
Athlete B (Small Sponge) increased his/her performance levels slightly but struggled with fatigue throughout the training blocks, his results have improved but at a much lower rate than that of Athlete A (Big Sponge).
What we must understand is that as athletes we are great at going longer and doing harder sessions, but the fact of the matter is what seems to separate the average from the good or great athletes is the ability to absorb the puddle or training load. We often rush into increasing training load similar to that of top athletes. A question I hear much too often in circles of athletes is “How’s training going ?” The common answer tends to be something along the lines of how many hours he/she has completed in the last week or month or even a recent tough session they may have completed. But just as important if not more so should be “How have you been recovering? ” This simple question gives us a good idea of how the athlete is absorbing the training load they are doing thus the ability to develop fitness.
So increase the size of your sponge and put as much emphasis on recovering as you do on training and watch your performance improve. Don’t forget the Equation:
Training + Recovery= Fitness
In our upcoming blogs we will look at how we can enhance recovery to help drive your fitness upwards.