Journal Entry 15 – Super Compensation
Getting a result from training is all about one thing – you have to hurt your body so that it repairs and returns stronger. This is called super compensation. The short version is that during training you actually slightly harm your body, much like adding a vaccine into your system that contains the disease you are trying to prevent in order to make it resistant, and after a suitable time delay for rest and recovery you return stronger than before.
A smart training plan includes ample damage and recovery so you arrive at your event with fitness and strength improved, and feeling fresh enough to showcase it on the day. If your sport is one like swimming, where athletes do huge miles leading up to an event, with multiple daily sessions all at a reasonably high intensity level, this resting and recovering period could take weeks.
And right now, as I sit here yawning and trying to keep my eyes open long enough to get this done, I am about at my absolute peak for fatigue. I train in a two hard weeks/one easy week format and as I write this I have only one short easy ride to do this afternoon, as well as a long ride with a short run off the bike tomorrow morning, before I start my easy week.
With the last two weeks being most noticeable for my ability to return to regular running and start to slowly increase the length of each run, I’ve been really feeling the full effects of fatigue this week. After a ninety minute run this morning all I wanted to do was curl up on the couch and have a nap. Instead I went to work and coached our clients through their regular Saturday sessions.
I’m not going to lie – I’ve crushed myself over the last two weeks.
The big additions have been the increased run volume and a few swim sessions that have been both longer and harder than usual. When it comes to training it’s not my first time at the dance and I can tell you now there is no deeper fatigue than that felt post hard endurance work. If you want to make it even deeper go do it in the middle of winter when it’s cold outside. The combination of trying to keep your body warm as well as keep you moving seems to sap the body of strength for hours after.
And that’s been my week – one session after the other, pounding into me, like waves crashing one after the other with no let up. But that’s ok because next week is the recovery week and like that moment of the sun bursting through the clouds after two weeks of rain I’ll start to feel good again towards the end of the week as I freshen up. All of a sudden I’ll go from barely able to keep my eyes open to feeling like I can run through a wall again.
Which is lucky because the two weeks after that will be a step up again in distance. This constant state of ebb and flow of fatigue and of needing to manage it to maximize the training effect is like a narrow ledge. Push too hard for too long and you’ll fall – likely when you’re at your absolute best. Too easy and you’ll never scale the heights of peak performance. But you have to prepared to embrace the suck, grit your teeth and just work through it as best you can. Embrace the suck during the hard weeks and make sure to schedule in a regular recovery week otherwise you won’t actually gain fitness you’ll just smash yourself some more. The recovery week is perhaps the single best kept secret of elite performance. Add it into your own training and watch your performances soar while minimizing injury.