Yesterday I went to a very interesting seminar by Dr Charles Pedlar, Academic Director for Research St Marys University & lead Physiologist at ORRECCO. It was arranged by Triathlon England and was well attended by fitness professionals and coaches in the field.
The focus of the talk was on eight essentials of health for people who train and exercise regularly and for long periods at a time (60 mins +) - be it running, swimming, cycling, football, hockey - all sports. I will try and summarise them here as I found them to be very useful.
This is really important as you need to be inspired. It can be a real driver to make sure you get out of bed and do the exercise you have promised yourself you will do. Motivation can come form many sources - weight loss, time challenge, peer pressure, fund raising, competition - the list goes on.
It can also have negative effects on training as motivation can be such a driver that the exerciser doesn't know when to stop, which can result in over training.
For women there are specific markers of energy balance (ie energy in vs energy out). These are:
Body weight - is weight dropping significantly?
Menstruation - if your periods have stopped, this could be an indication of high training load and you don't want this to continue for prolonged periods of time (more than a couple of months during race season)
Specific blood biomarkers such as free T3 (indicator of thyroid function) and urea.
This might not necessary be the total mileage or hours of training but also the intensity. It is important to mix up your training to include easy, steady, threshold and interval training.
For anyone who exercises, you need to consider how much and how hard you are training, and try to get the balance right. If you start to feel your health deteriorate, look at how much are you doing.
Sleep & recovery
This is a biggie.
Sleep has restorative effects on the brain. REM enhances learning, we conserve energy during sleep, it has antioxident effects and positive effects on hormones such as growth hormone and melatonin.
Recovery is also really important in maintaining health during high periods of exercise. Exercise stresses the muscles and causes damage to the muscle fibres. ONLY occur during rest does the adapation occur. Rest is essential for the muscles to adapt, get stronger and allow for further overload.
This is a massive subject that was only touched on breifly during the presentation, mainly in terms of iron levels and female athletes. However one of the other presentations was centred around the 'low carb' diet. Essentially the science says that we need carbohydrate for any high intensity training. Whenever we go into anaerobic training the body will utilise the most efficient energy source, and that is carbohydrate.
Whilst we can train our bodies to be more efficient at fat burning, the long and short of it is that we still need carbs for high intensity and that there is no evidence that high fat/low carbohydrate diets improve performance.
So, don't cut out a good variety of carbohydrates - vegetables, pulses, grains are all good for you.
Such as warm weather training, high altitude training and how we can adapt to these. One point I took away from this is that if you are racing in a hot country, ideally you should have a couple of weeks acclimatising to the conditions before the race!
How can you control these? - work, family, friends always take your energy and time away from training. Its a fact of life that these are at times draining, but at other times are energising.
You just have to find your time and manage your exercise schedule around these as much as possible.
However one thing is clear, exercise will help you deal with these stressors.
At this point we ran out of time!
So my take on this would be that we need to ensure we have a big enough engine to be able to push when we need to (overtake that person infront of you).
Aerobic power is the building block of everything you need to do. Its the ability to go steady for a long (ish) period of time without dying. Its built steadily and slowly and is the foundation for everything else.