29 July 2007

Energy - cycles

You may have noticed that the posting frequency on this blog has gone down recently. Sure, it's partly because I had some other work that needed to get done (I've had some major changes in my life to adjust to recently). But partly because I needed the time to think, and not write about my ideas for a wee while. I've made a bit of progress in this area, and you'll here more on this blog when I'm finished the procress.

This idea of cycles is pretty important in many areas of life - work, relationhips, art and, yes, training for sport. One of the main ways it shows it's face in climbing is that we are trying to perfrom at our best all the time - year round. Of course it doesn't work, but when it doesn't we get mad and try to pull harder and get even more riled. The reult is generally apathy, overtraining related injury, or both.

The filp side is that if we have a brief respite following one of these periods of reduced performance and frustration induced hard effort/training, there is often a major jump in performance. In sports sicence this process is called tapering.

Tapering is part of a theory of sport science called periodisation. The idea is that we focus on different training tasks is sequence to prevent fatique accumulating to injury and plateau inducing levels. Once have worked ourselves hard in each area, we reduce the training volume in all areas to give the body a chance to refresh itself completely. The result - a performance leap. Most people who apply the concept (and that includes most books on training for climbing) limit its use to the first part (varying the work during training) and ignore the second (using tapering to switch between training and performance modes, or even recognising the distinction at all!).

In summary

  • Trying to perform all the time, and neglecting to give yourself time to prepare for the performance is a route to failure.
  • Allow for the fact your body and mind work in cycles - don't worry when you feel stuck in a rut of training or atempting to understand a concept. Performance is inevitably depressed during training. Keep grappling with it to stimulate the body/mind to adapt. When the signs of overtraining appear, taper and reap the rewards of your efforts.

'OK Dave, I get that... next question: how do I distinguish between the healthy fatique and frustration of a good training period, and the downward spiral of overtraining and apathy, and hence decide the right moment to stop training and start performing, or switch training focus?'

Answer - It's not easy! years of experience or a coach can help. Sometimes, even asking a friend can help -anything to get a more objective reflection. There are many clues you can use yourself though - I'll be writing more about these soon.


Lee said...

Great post. You're so right about the "raging against the machine" when we slip into poor performance. Even though we often know that we're starting to drop our performance level (and that this is a natural process), it's tempting to think "I'll just train my way through it!" which simply compounds the effects of fatigue and overtraining leading to even worse performance.

Often it's when you're so disgusted with yourself that you "quit" (for a week or two at best!) and then start back up again slowly that you build to a higher level of performance.

I guess my point is that we know a lot of this stuff - but for addicted climbers, our climbing performance is often so linked to our emotional states that we don't make the best decisions.


lexy said...

Sometimes the period of rest from whatever activity you are doing is good not only physically but also mentally. At one point in my life I became 'emotionally' linked to climbing. If things were going right in my life it reflected in climbing, and likewise the opposite. Unfortunately at one point things weren't going well in my life at all and this showed in my climbing as I was steadily getting worse and worse as each week went by, which of course I then get frustrated by my climbing, which made it even worse, and so on.

Then I had to stop climbing for about a year and a half due to work (no crags out in the middle of the ocean)and when I finally went back to climbing I not only quickly regained my former level but also surpassed it! The thing is I was much stronger before, but after that long break I was able to mentally approach climbing from a fresh perspective. Plus I had a lot more motivation.

I guess what i'm saying is that sometimes taking a break is the best thing you can do. Just be sure not to take that break at the wrong time.

lexy :-)