Are You Really Ready to Train Today?

Are You Really Ready to Train Today?
Following is a list of excuses for not working out…

Gotcha!  Actually, this isn’t the first time you have heard me talk about the importance of recovery.  It’s imperative that we rest and recover in order to allow our bodies to adapt.  Believe it or not, we don’t get stronger, leaner, and healthier while we are working out, it happens during the recovery phase of our training.  How do you know when you need to recover?  Unfortunately, most of us can’t be trusted to answer this question for ourselves. 
During the MN United pre-season last year, we spent two weeks in England, and as part of that trip, we played a friendly match against an English Premier League Team called Darby.  For our players it was a big match with a ton of opportunity to prove ourselves.  Fifteen minutes into the match one of our defenders got elbowed in the head while trying to get to a ball.  His eyebrow was split open and clearly required stitches.  He also had a concussion and was significantly disoriented.  What do you think he said after we cleaned up the blood and mess and he came out of the haze?  Even though he couldn’t see out of one eye he said, “Put me back in, I’m totally fine, and I can play!”  You tell me, as athletes, can we be trusted?  No way!  So that’s why we need objective ways to measure our state of readiness. 
Here are two of my favorite objective ways to determine whether to train hard, light, or just recover:

Orthostatic Heart Rate.  Have you ever been lying down and then gotten up and felt dizzy?  What’s happening is your blood is pooling in your veins and not effectively getting to your upper extremities.  Your central nervous system normally kicks in when you go from lying to standing and increases your heart rate to get blood flowing.  It usually increases 10-15 beats per minute and temporarily increases your blood pressure.  The difference between your heart rate when you’re lying down and your standing heart rate is called your “orthostatic heart rate”.  This measurement can be used to see if your central nervous system is ready for you to train.  Generally, it’s best to test yourself in the following manner:

  1. First thing in the morning while you’re still lying down in bed, take your resting heart rate for 60 seconds.
  2. Then stand (on the floor) and wait 15 seconds.
  3. Take your standing heart rate for another 60 seconds.
  4. If the difference is greater than 15 it might be time to do a recovery session.

While the objective measurement is important, you should also consider subjective information:  how do you normally feel each day at the time you’re measuring your orthostatic heart rate on a scale of 1-10?  Do you normally feel energetic?  Sluggish?  So-so?  Compare your subjective “measurement” your orthostatic heart rate.  Does it line up or not?  You’ll soon start to see patterns.

Linear Periodization.  This is the scientific term for sticking to a certain schedule of training that allows for built-in recovery.  It might be something like five days on and two days off.  Basically finding what works for you and sticking to your off days no matter what!  Even if you feel like running a marathon or doing 1,000 box jumps.  (Research shows that the ideal schematic is five on, two off.)

There’s something to be said for subjective input on your state of readiness, but it’s also helpful to have some hard data to compare with your feelings.  There’s nothing wrong with starting a workout, and after the first round, knowing that it’s not your day, and then slowing down or changing the focus. 
Just last week I went to do the Friday workout that required an 800-meter run at the beginning.   I know I can normally do that in three minutes or less, and on that day it took me close to four minutes.  Right away I decided to cut the work in half and use it more as recovery.  24 hours later, I felt great and was ready to train again. 
Remember, overtraining (training without recovery) has the ability to blunt all the hard work we put into training and nutrition.  Some of the signs of overtraining include:  increased body fat percentage (which means you should be measuring it), lack of enthusiasm to train, increased resting heart rate, chronic fatigue, and decrease in performance.
Listen to your body.  What’s it saying?  (It’s not saying, “Give me a loaf of bread”)  What’s your orthostatic heart rate?  Are you sticking to a training schedule?  Are you ready to train today?
We won’t be taking naps in the gym next week, but we will be reminding all of you to make sure your body is ready to take on the workout we have planned for the day!
See you in the gym!