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Exercise Column

Train smart, recover smarter

An important point to remember when you are training is that you do not gain fitness - strength, power, speed, size ... endurance - while you are training. Fitness and adaptations come during your recovery period between workouts provided optimal rest and nutrition are provided. Many athletes mistakenly believe they are gaining strength while lifting or endurance while running. Exercise is an important, even critical, aspect of conditioning. However, exercise provides the stimulus for change, not the change itself.

Exercise is a stress, and as such creates an incentive for transformation. During exercise fuel stores are utilized and micro-damage is imposed. In some sense muscle is broken down during exercise and repaired during recovery. Provided the appropriate training stimulus is applied the body will adapt to the stress of the workout so subsequent workouts are easier. They are easier as a result of adaptations which have taken place during the recovery period. This is provided adequate time and nutrition is provided.

Since stress is additive, if you train to hard, have too many stressors (work, workout, relationship issues, etc.) you are likely to limit your ability to respond / adapt and become over trained. Common symptoms of over training include injury, illness, excessive fatigue, and even lack of motivation. So while you may follow a specific program for training, and even have a coach you work with, make sure you place as much emphasis on the recovery from your workout as you do to the workout itself. I often tell the elite athletes I work with to refrain from a high-intensity workout if they are unable to get adequate rest and proper food in afterwards. You should do the same. Make sure you train smart and recover smarter.

Written by Eric Sternlicht, Ph.D. Department of Kinesiology, Occidental College, Los Angeles CA.