When Mike asked me to guest article for Cadence’s blog, we came up with the idea of rest as a topic. It’s easy to get carried away with new training and maybe even moreso a workout like spinning, which provides a good level of intensity without the post-exercise soreness typically associated with other workouts. Regardless of how you're training, the key to breaking through to the next level in your physical goals is through a little R'n'R: rest and relaxation. Although the soreness is diminished, primarily due to the fact that there is no eccentric (braking against gravity) contraction phase in cycling, it is still critical to take rest (read: recovery) seriously. Similar to feeling like you missed getting your sweat on in swimming (yes, you are still sweating), a good intense spin, although there’s less soreness, will deplete your reserves and will need to be replenished.
There is much to consider when getting involved with an exercise or training program. Some things to ask yourself are questions like: 'What’s my goal?', 'What’s convenient?', and 'What’s engaging and fun?'
One of the aspects of training I notice many exercisers and athletes forget is how much recovery time to include. So often, people I talk to have the idea that the training is what ultimately yields the result. However, our ability to improve, whatever the training goal, rests on two major factors: the ability to execute a training program that causes an overreaching of current capacities (strength, power, endurance or combinations) and the ability to recover the central nervous system (CNS) and tissues fully from training bouts to the point where the desired capacities increase (supercompensation).
Human physiology doesn’t recognize differences in types of stressors. As a whole, it reacts the same way whether the stressors are physical or otherwise (i.e. mental, emotional etc.). If overreaching occurs too long, via training intensity and/or duration and/or frequency, the result is overtraining. The symptoms are often persistent soreness, fatigue, elevated heart rate at rest, irritability, depression, increased susceptibility to infections and injury.
“Overtraining syndrome is a neuroendocrine disorder characterized by poor performance in competition, inability to maintain training loads, persistent fatigue, reduced catecholamine excretion, frequent illness, disturbed sleep and alterations in mood state.” - MacKinnon, 2000
Assessing recovery needs is not cut and dry and can require some experimentation. Let’s also factor in often forgotten factors of nutrition, sleep, family, work, traffic, and financial issues (to name a few) on top of training and there are many places to look for reasons of overtraining.
When designing programs, there is only so much a coach/trainer can do to keep the athlete/client performing. And, with a specific goal in mind, it’s easy to get carried away. I’ve seen many clients that shoot out of the gate and succumb to long periods of overreaching yet keep pushing through. For some, exercise is in fact physiologically addicting (let’s just be aware of this!) as natural endorphins and dopamine become more present in the system.
There are many ways to monitor status of the CNS, which is responsible for communications between all systems and regions in the body, is functioning ideally. Scientifically valid questionnaires (POMS, RESTQ, Hooper-MacKinnon) and indexes are good, but can be subjective and require interpretation by the coach and honesty from the athlete/client. A more practical and objective measure is the CNS Tap test (http://smudge.io/apps/cnstaptest/), which you can get as an app for iOS and android (although practice effect and awareness may skew the result). The best way however is to pay close attention to what your body tells you and be honest about what factors are affecting you and your performance in training. Keeping a journal is a simple and great way for regular exercisers to monitor changing factors.
Interested to learn more? Here's some further reading and resources: