Leading up to the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia, I had the opportunity to work as a physiologist with the Canadian synchronized swimming team. “Synchro” is a sport that puts tremendous demands on an athlete. The swimmers have to be incredibly fit to perform a high-intensity routine that’s four minutes long and requires near maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) cardiovascular system intensity, alternated with periods of extended breath-holding and explosive elements like jumps.
Furthermore, the athletes need extraordinary flexibility, strength, balance, precision and timing, plus a myriad of other physical and mental skills to be able to compete effectively. Typical days for these women consisted of water-based physical training, routine practice, ballet, stretching and weights, and land-based cardio. And this was done six days a week for the four years leading up to the Olympics, with only a couple of weeks a year for the athletes to take a break. I'm sure you can relate to a demanding training schedule like this.
The ability to recover within the day and between workouts defined the difference between those swimmers who could manage the training load and keep improving and those who couldn’t and, ultimately, failed to qualify for the Olympics.
But hard training, work and practice cause mental and physical fatigue and distress—and stressors stimulate the body to adapt. The inductors that cause fatigue—for example, lactic acid, and muscle-breakdown products such as creatine kinase —all stimulate the body to rebuild itself stronger. This adaptation also occurs in the brain, where new neural connections are made and neurotransmitter levels increase or decrease in response to the mental or physical training stimulus.
But the real key to adaptation is the recovery period after the exercise is completed. This is when the refueling, repair and growth of the body’s systems take place. Train too hard, too often, and there won’t be enough time for recovery. Instead of improving, your body deteriorates and you get sick.
In this module we’ll be exploring how to recover and regenerate better so that you can train better, more often and get healthier at the same time.
Today's POWER-UP: Take the Recovery Survey
Please answer the following questions regarding your training and recovery over the past week. This will help us to give you some feedback on how you're doing.