Life is like music; it must be composed by ear, feeling, and instinct, not by rule.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Adaption rate, recovery and muscular stress cycles

Well, it's been interesting as I've increased my weekly mileage to the 60-70 miles per week ("mpw") range having exceed 70 mpw a few times.  To reach this threshold, I've also had to throw in 2-3 doubles per week.  My body has been able to absorb the increase, however, to no surprise, I've lost some leg punch given my legs are trashed at times.  It's been a great experience because it's forced me to reassess the recovery process as a masters runner.

Like it or not, I've over 40 years old and I have to recognize changes in my body, adaption capabilities, recovery and muscles stresses.  It's just life and you acknowledge and start to build a plan around it or you ignore and end up seriously injured and/or unhappy.  I just listened to a great interview on Masters Training by Coach Greg McMillan which you can pull up on iTunes in the podcast section (it's free).  Coach McMillan identifies 3 types of masters runners:

1.  the one that competed in high school and at the collegiate level, left the sport after college, and comes back
2.  the one that picks up runner later in life, generally in their mid to late 30's and realizes they are pretty good
3.  the one that competed in high school, college and never stops.

The #3 category is extremely rare as Coach McMillan points out.  #1 and #2 account for the vast majority of  masters runners and I'm clearly a #2.  Having played high school and college basketball, I picked up running around age 37 and realized as I was pretty good having regularly finished in the top 5-10% in races against my similar aged counterparts (and I've won a 5k outright against collegiate runners).  Coach McMillan had different advice for the #1 vs. #2 runner and I'll selfishly focus on the #2 runner because the #1 runner, as he pointed out, has a tremendous amount of experience and knowledge from their prior running life which has pro's and con's.  The #2 runner has no mental remembrance so it's all new.

The key that he points out is focusing on the "adaption" cycle.  Generally speaking it will take a masters runner 1-2x additional days to recovery from hard and long runs so the key is to spread the stresses.  He recommended the following approach:

1.  decrease the number of total workouts and mileage
2.  focus on recovery
3.  focus on "key" workouts (speed and long runs for example) and make sure you are recovery before and after such key workouts

The basic message is to match the training to the adaption capabilities.  Just running sheer miles for the sake of miles will significantly increase your chances for injury and burnout.  The other factor to support that which another coach highlighted is that it can take 3-5x longer for a masters runner to recovery from injury.  A injury that might take a few days for a 20 something to recover can take 2-4 weeks for a masters runner to recovery so the message is clear that the best way to avoid injury is to "not" get injured, hence the focus on recovery and smart running.

All of this has me re-assessing the increase mileage against the ultimate strategy and goal of "quality over quantity."  At the simplistic level, I'm comparing my 40-45 mpw and hitting key workouts vs. 60-70 mpw and continuing to run in a fatigued state and not being able to incorporate as many key workouts (i.e., having to do more easy and medium effort runs).



  1. I agree adaptation ias a key and too oftenly underestimated point.

    Even when I was in my fittiest years I was following those rules:

    2. focus on recovery
    3. focus on "key" workouts (speed and long runs for example) and make sure you are recovery before and after such key workouts

    It wasn't enabling me to brag about my yearly mileage, though believe me at the end of the yearly cycle I was healthier than many of my buddies.

  2. Luc,

    You said it more eloquently than I my friend. It's not about bragging or listing the monthly or yearly mileage. It's about being the best and healthiest runner possible and doing it as injury free as possible.

    How, when and why one recovers is a personal thing and something each individual must figure out as there is no playbook or one size fits all. Some 5k runners will never excel at the marathon and might not even enjoy and conversely long distance runners may never excel as the 5k, 10k or shorter distances.

    You must recognize what you are as defined by the parameters of your body and mental make-up.



Twitter Updates

    follow me on Twitter

    My Blog List

    My Blog List