Just recently I watched an old episode of The Chappelle Show and one particular skit (“When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong”) gave me an idea for this next post. By the way, if you have never seen it, you should watch it on YouTube. It is some funny stuff.
Have you been training hard for the last few months, but find yourself having sub-par race times? Have you been dealing with constant nagging injuries? The ones which do not prevent you from working out, but are just annoying enough to drive you crazy? Have you been doing everything “by the book” and still nothing? You have done your speed work, intervals, long runs, cross training, heck, you even strength train and got in a few yoga classes (for stretching you know) and still are not making progress. You feel you are doing everything right, but you are not getting faster and/or becoming a better runner. You feel you are doing everything right, but, everything you get in return is wrong.
If you are wondering what is wrong and what can you do to change that, than you may want to continue reading.
What you may be experiencing is Lack of Training Adaptation (LTA) caused by too much of training stimulus. Better said – too much of the SAME training stimulus. This is a younger sibling of Overtraining Syndrome or simply known as Overtraining (frequent bouts of colds, moodiness, prolonged lack of energy, irritability, insomnia, lack of interest in the activity/sport, depression). Continue with the same things you have been doing and you will most likely find yourself overtraining.
Every time we exercise we induce a new stress to our body. In response to to that, our body goes through two steps in order to adapt to the new training stimulus.
The first part of this process is an acute reaction (heart rate speeds up and ventilation increases, muscles fatigue, you start to sweat). This happens every time you go out for a run or do any other type of exercise. It is an immediate effect the exercise has on us.
The second part of reacting to the stress of exercise is called training effect. Training effect manifest itself as the anatomical and physiological changes (adaptations) throughout your body (muscles get stronger and/or bigger, resting heart rate is slower, body fat decreases, number of capillaries increase, etc.). These changes allow you to perform the same task with less effort/discomfort. This happens due to repeated, chronic exercise. And this is a good thing. But as the old saying goes, “Too much of a good thing can be bad”, and so it is the case with training.
When you continue with the same, or even add more of the same training stimulus, you will experience LTA and it will seem as if everything is going wrong (no improvement, nagging injuries, bad race times etc.), even if you are doing everything right (following the plan).
In order to avoid this from happening, you must apply one (and in some cases more than one) of these strategies:
Strategy #1. Decrease training intensity
If more than 30% of your weekly mileage consists of high intense workouts (speed workouts, tempo runs, hill workouts, interval type of workouts, high intensity strength training), for more than 8 weeks, you may experience LTA. You should cut back the high intensity workouts for 2-4 weeks (no more than 10-15% of your weekly mileage). In some severe cases, you may want to cease with high intensity workouts all together for few weeks, and just do easy workouts.
Strategy #2. Decrease the volume
Volume represents your weekly mileage. Have you been constantly increasing your training volume from one week to the next? If so, than you may want to cut back. That can be easily done by shortening your daily runs: run a few less intervals during your track session, cut back on the length of your weekly long run, shorten your tempo workout from X minutes to X – 1 minute (or more if you are training for marathon).
3. Decrease the frequency
If you are training 8-12 times per week or more (this includes all types of workouts: running, strength training, swimming, yoga, Pilates, etc.), but you do not see any improvement in your fitness level (specifically improvements when it comes to running), you should consider cutting back. My recommendation is to first cut back on any workouts that does not directly improve running performance in the short term.
For example, if you find yourself running 4 times per week, doing strength training 3 times per week, swimming one time per week, doing yoga 2 times per week and taking spinning class at your local health club one time per week (11 workouts per week) you may want to consider cutting back on strength straining to 1-2 times per week, yoga to 1 time per week. I would cut cycling and swimming all together (unless you are injured in which case you should cut back on running) because why do more “cardio”? Isn’t 4 days of running enough “cardio”?
Lack of training adaptation (LTA) can be very frustrating if left unaddressed because it can lead to Overtraining, which is a much harder issue to overcome.
Adapt some of these strategies if you think you are “suffering” from the case of LTA, and I am sure that you will see improvements 2-4 weeks later.