The Energy Pipeline
February 3, 2021
Managing Your Energy Supply is Key to Success
Each week I review my athletes' training plans and advise them on tweaks or adjustments that might maximize their progress towards their goals. Far and away the most important element of these reviews is analysis of their specific and overall energy trends.
In simple terms, the overall energy trends means how we were feeling on each day of the preceding week. Active living will always lead to some level of fatigue, but fatigue that should be, for the most part, erased during our sleep, leaving us ready for a little carpe diem. Sometimes life just serves up some extra stressors or we subject ourselves to them through a sudden increase in physical activity. What causes low energy days can often be discovered through analysing the previous week. Let's learn what caused it but, more importantly, learn how to adjust in order to return to 100%. Hammering through is rarely successful and often makes things worse. A better choice is to decrease your energy output to allow for some recovery.
Looking at the specific energy trends means to look at the nature of the activities during our week. Firstly, did we have a sudden jump in physical activity volume. For example, perhaps we were exercising 2 hours per week then added an additional hour long session. Well, that is a 50% increase so chances are your physiology was a little taken by surprise! This increase in workload means your body has to work hard to recover and rebuild and that process can result in a general sense of fatigue till the process is done.
The second specific energy element to look at, and this is a big one, is the intensity of the activity. The higher your exertion level during an activity, the higher metabolic cost. Translation: high intensity workouts need more recovery. Adding a 30 minute easy bike ride to your week is not the same as adding 30 minutes of high intensity bike intervals. The latter must be done with greater consideration to how and when it is added. Are you ready for the increased load? Are you prepared to be a little more tired as a result of the increased load?
Here are the takeaways:
1) When you increase your volume of exercise do so in small increments and expect to feel a little more fatigued in the days that follow. Make sure to give your body the chance to adjust through good sleep and nutrition. Don't increase it again till you feel like your body has caught up.
2) High intensity workouts create considerably more fatigue than those done at moderate intensity. The best strategy is to add a little intensity to an existing workout. Adding volume and making that additional workout an intense one will be more challenging to manage from an energy standpoint.
Maintaining your work/rest energy balance leads to the one thing we're all looking for and that is a chance to get out and enjoy more of what life offers, everything from be running a half-marathon to chasing kids around the yard.
Posted by Geordie McConnell, Head Coach