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Over-training on no training

March 31st, 2012 1 comment

Is it possible to overtrain when you are not training at all? At what point does daily activity cross over into too much. This is something I think about due to the rigors of trying to stay in running shape while commuting by bike. On many days this means I am doing 3, hour long workouts, not including any physical tasks that I may need to perform as part of my job.

If I have to take my laptop with me, my commuter bag weighs about 20 lbs. Add to that a 14 mile ride to work, and I can end up feeling the burn just getting in in the morning. Fortunately, it’s all downhill from my house to the office. I generally try to take in a small snack when I arrive and keep hydrated all morning. By the time lunch rolls around I’m hungry, but can usually get through an hour run on the trails before I eat. If I’m still tired from the day before this run can be pretty painful. Now I’m faced with an uphill ride home with a 20 lb pack. I’m already beat down, and some days just riding the flat sections hurts. It’s at this point that I question the wisdom of this commute.

At first I was under the impression that through training the body can adapt to all stresses. But after a couple of seasons of riding/running almost every day I’m beginning to wonder if my body will not adapt to that volume of exercise. I find myself getting burnt out, dreading my evening ride. The only thing that keeps me going is knowing that’s the only way I’m getting home.

But, perhaps my body is adapting to the stress of commuting and running. Granted my speed specific running training is suffering, but potentially with the gain of overall fitness. And overall fitness is really my goal. My ride home may seem just as difficult as it was the first time I tried it, but I’m riding it a lot faster now. Perhaps there is a continual improvement with this training, but without a measure I can’t see it. I am not exhibiting any of the signs of overtraining, such as irritability or sleeplessness, I may just have forgotten what pushing myself really feels like.

I always assumed that if I worked hard enough I could reach a plateau where my activities would seem easier. I equated that with fitness. Now I think that fitness is a dynamic thing, what was easy one day may be difficult the next. In this way I may never achieve what I consider to be in shape, except by striving to improve every day. Instead of the means to an end, the end is the means.

Recovery

March 26th, 2012 1 comment

I think one of the biggest problems of the fitness industry is sports and recovery drinks. Coincidently, sports and recovery drinks accounted for $3.9 billion in sales in 2010 and continue to increase. It’s no wonder that the soft drink manufacturers want to get in on the action. But in many respects they are selling products that most consumers don’t need, and will in fact harm them.

Part of the problem arises with our definition of “athlete.” “Athletes” need sports drinks to achieve top performance, the University of Florida showed us that. “Athletes” need recovery products to kickstart the muscle building process, bodybuilders have known this for years. But these cases reflected the needs of pro-football players, and people pushing their bodies to the very limit of performance.

The term “athlete” now refers to anyone who does anything physical. Just watch a sport on TV and keep an eye out for the sports drink ads. Are these companies spending millions on advertising to reach the 0.1% of the population at the peak of physical fitness? Are NFL football players recording the games they missed on their DVRs, then watching them later in the week thinking, “I bet I wouldn’t have missed that pass if I was drinking that!” The sports drink industry wants every armchair quarterback to think that they need 20oz of electrolyte drink after they mow the lawn. That’s what makes $3.9 billion.

So now we have a generation of active, informed adults who are doing exactly the right things to get in shape, then eliminating all their gains with their choice in recovery drink. They don’t need a 20oz sports drink and a protein shake to recover from an hour long trip to the gym, they need a peanut butter sandwich and a glass of milk!

I understand there are barriers to making real food part of a recovery plan. Almost all of my workouts end with me going back to work, so I can’t exactly grill a lean chicken breast to eat. But I can take dried fruit in my lunch instead of an energy bar. I can buy a small carton of milk at the cafeteria (granted I have to dig deep into the refrigerator display to find it). And I can pay attention to what advertisers are telling me. Good products sell themselves and don’t need the hype. When it comes to my fitness, I’m pretty sure the soft drink giants don’t have my best interests in mind.

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