Preventing Downturns in Performance – Owen Anderson Ph.D.

I am so pleased that Owen Anderson Ph.D. has once again allowed me to post a recent article of his. Owen can be reached here: coach.owen@comcast.net – DMH

When runners are still able to get out onto the roads or track and do their planned work, but their performances are off by 5 to 10 percent and feelings of fatigue are stronger than usual, we say that such runners have become stale.
Staleness is a temporary condition, usually linked with just a few days of sub-par running. However, it can progress to the over-trained state, a longer-term state associated with pronounced physiological changes in the nervous and muscular systems which decrease performance capacity significantly.

Increases in training volume (mileage or kilometrage) are a principal cause of staleness, because the new, higher amount of work being performed often exceeds the capacity of a runner’s body to recover from the augmented training stress and then adapt physiologically. Each added mile places an additional stress on the body, and yet runners often blithely increase mileage without making corresponding and necessary changes in the ways they are preparing for and recovering from their workouts.

One key problem is that runners often advance volume without having the intrinsic running-specific strength to do so successfully (i. e., to do so without causing staleness and/or injury). Runners tend to believe that higher volume would be a good thing from the standpoint of aerobic-capacity expansion and thus pursue greater volume avidly, without taking into account the wear and tear on the muscular and connective-tissue systems which such running produces.

That destructive action, the lysis of myofibers and myofibrils in response to the thousands of additional running steps taken each week, has to be counteracted in some way, either by first expanding running-specific strength (prior to the mileage build-up) to protect the muscles or else by enhancing recovery processes in appropriate correspondence with the volume augmentation (actually both steps, upgraded strength and enhanced recovery, are recommended).

A firm bottom line is that a runner can’t simply proceed as usual when he/she ramps up mileage. The strength preparation must match the increase in work load, and the recovery processes must be enhanced in order to allow the body to adapt and re-build adequately despite the bruising blows of the longer-duration training.

Many different recovery modes can be effective. Certainly, if a runner’s weight has been at a desirable level, he/she can not increase mileage without also stepping up intakes of total calories and carbohydrate. Without adequate calories to fuel the additional miles, internal energy stores will run low. In the absence of copious carbohydrate intake, muscle-glycogen levels will drop, energy and endurance will dip, and overall performances will fall (yes, staleness can occur in this way). When volume expands, taking in more calories and carbs is a key part of recovery.

Sleep is an often-overlooked but amazingly effective recovery mode. Many runners believe they can advance from 30 to 45 miles per week without any change at all in sleep patterns, but such a strategy is extremely ill-advised. Sleep encompasses a variety of different recovery processes, not the least of which is a night-time surge in the pituitary production of human growth hormone, which in turn repairs bone and muscle tissues while enhancing the breakdown of fat. The relationship has not been carefully worked out in scientific settings, but it is clear that higher mileage creates a demand for more time in the sack, and – yes – even the occasional use of kindergarten-style afternoon naps, if possible – to restore the body and promote adaptation.

Enhanced fluid intakes will also be optimal (because higher training volume means more sweat out on the skin), and it is impossible to over-estimate the value of “down time” – periods during the day when a runner relaxes totally and does something he/she truly enjoys. Such respites are absolutely without parallel for nervous-system recovery. For a runner who likes to read, a period of significant volume expansion represents the one time in his/her career when reading the collected stories of Isaac Babel will be the best thing for enhancing running economy – far better than kicking out extra reps on a steep hill.

A key thing to remember is that neural recovery is highly individualized. For one runner, talking with a girl/boy friend might be the best recovery of all, while for another reading or getting a massage would be the right recovery ticket. Fortunately, each runner knows exactly what produces the maximal amount of mental relaxation and comfort (and thus unifies body and mind and increases the tolerance of hard work during subsequent training sessions).

It is only natural for an endurance runner to answer the development of a period of staleness with an increase in total work. Most serious endurance runners believe that nothing in running can be attained without hard work, and the upswing in volume is viewed as a way to kick fitness back up again, as a way to reverse the downward fitness slide of staleness. The truth is that more hard work is exactly the wrong way to treat staleness; it may in fact push staleness “over the cliff” into the murky swamp we call the over-trained state.

While the human body is often compared with various machines, the truth is that the body can not be driven for increasingly long distances each day and yet be ready every morning for intense, hard work. Each long-distance “drive” in your body needs to be accompanied by enhancements of your most-effective recovery strategies.

Top Three Reasons for Coming to One of Owen’s Running Camps

(1) Location, location, location: Owen has camps for you in some of the most beautiful and interesting places in the world, including the Snowy Mountains of Australia, Malibu Canyon in California, Track-Town USA (Eugene, Oregon), the Flatirons of Boulder, Colorado, Brigham Young University in Hawaii, the Green Mountains of Vermont, and yes – even little Oscoda County in northern Michigan. As a result, when you attend one of Owen’s camps you’ll get a transforming running week and a great vacation at the same time. Sign up for your week in running paradise right here.

(2) Running Form Improvement: Have you ever wondered whether tweaking your running form might decrease your risk of injury, enhance your economy, and/or upgrade your performances? Wonder no more! At camp, Owen will shoot video of you running at different speeds and sit down with you to analyze your form. He will then work with you individually to optimize the four key elements of great running form – cadence, mid-foot strike pattern, posture, and body angle. When you leave camp, you will be a transformed runner, with more-powerful strides, augmented economy, and greater fatigue-resistance. For your personal running-form makeover and the chance to dramatically increase your running speed, sign up here now.

(3) vVO2max Training: When you come to camp, Owen will measure your vVO2max and then show you exactly how to put together a training program which sends your vVO2max through the roof. vVO2max is a key predictor of running fitness and performance, so your vVO2max advancement will help you carve significant chunks of time from your 5Ks, 10Ks, half-marathons, and marathons (and any other distances which you run). You will finally achieve those dream running goals which have been so elusive in the past. To push your vVO2max and running capacity to the highest-possible levels, sign up right here.

Bear in mind that these three great features just touch the surface of what actually happens at Owen’s camps. For example, you will also learn an easy-to-carry-out, full progression of running-specific strength training which will shield you from the sharp arrows of overuse injury. You will make great new running friends and conduct workouts in unforgettable locations, for example Lake Jindabyne in Australia, Spencer’s Butte in Oregon, or the Appalachian Trail in Vermont. And you will enjoy getting to know Owen and appreciate his commitment to you and eagerness to help you, even after camp ends. To be part of an experience which changes your running life in so many positive ways, sign up right here.

If travel isn’t in your budget – attend great running camps in Arizona with Coach Dean.

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About Dean Hebert

I’m a mental game coach, author and speaker. I work with individual athletes, parents, coaches, and teams on sports performance enhancement. Beyond my academic post-graduate work in sports psychology - the psychology behind athlete performance – I am a certified Mental Games Coaching Professional (MGCP) and certified hypnotherapist. I’ve authored several books and hundreds of articles. “Coach, I didn’t run because…” (2008) is a seriously light-hearted look at making excuses not to workout and how to overcome them. “Focus for Fitness” (2009) and “Screw the Goals Give me the Donut” (2010) are two of my eBooks on mental game approaches for the everyday athlete. I wrote these because I believe that everyone can benefit from the powerful mental techniques that the world’s best athletes use. I have been cited in Runners World, Best Health magazine (CN), SWEAT Magazine, and the Washington Examiner amongst many other publications. I have been a featured mental games coach in Runner’s World and for the internationally acclaimed trail running resource - trailrunningclub.com. I also regularly appear on sports and fitness talk shows such as LTKFitness, Runnersroundtable and for more than three years I have co-hosted a weekly video series with Coach Joe English for Running-Advice.com. I specialize in mental toughness training. My clients include tennis, synchronized swimming, golf, race-kart, soccer, motocross, volleyball, MMA, cycling (road, off-road, time-trialist), running, duathlon and triathlon, basketball, football and baseball athletes. I have coached world-class athletes and athletes internationally. I have a passion for working with youth athletes and helping them apply mental game skills and techniques to all areas of life. Most importantly, my aim is to have people enjoy sports and life to their fullest through peak performances.
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