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February 18, 2010

Adaptation Environments

Adaptation refers to the body’s ability to adjust to increased or decreased physical demands. It is also one way we learn to coordinate muscle movement and develop sports-specific skills, which for me at this stage includes going 50km/h downhill through rock gardens, pedalling on a flat road in tt position at 50km/h and running faster and faster on my long runs. Repeatedly practicing a skill or activity makes it second-nature and easier to perform. Adaptation explains why beginning exercisers are often sore after starting a new routine, but after doing the same exercise for weeks and months they have little, if any, muscle soreness.

Additionally, it makes an athlete very efficient and allows him to expend less energy doing the same movements. This reinforces the need to vary a workout routine if you want to see continued improvement.

For me, adaptation leads to economy, which is something I am also hugely passionate about. To reach economy, we need to go through the adaptation phase, but we also need to do an overload phase as part of that. I am talking about this today, as we (all guys going through to IMSA) are all going into an overload phase right about now.

The exercise science principle of overload states that a greater than normal stress or load on the body is required for training adaptation to take place. What this means is that in order to improve our fitness, strength or endurance, we need to increase the workload accordingly.

In order for a muscle (including the heart) to increase strength, it must be gradually stressed by working against a load greater than it is used to. To increase endurance, muscles must work for a longer period of time than they are used to or at a higher intensity.

For some, this will involve a training camp. For me, I am racing Cape Epic as a top priority, but it also doubles up as the most amazing training camp ever. Its 50/50 though in how I am going to recover in time for a proper IMSA, as Cape Epic is at the same level of importance to me.

The guys I coach are all going to get emails this week relating to their adaptation environments for the next 6 weeks. They are going to go through some seriously tired moments, hence the video above. I have seen that exact thing at training camps, where guys are totally blown, at breakfast, but still pile in a 6 hour ride at pace that day.

The human body is amazing.

Hope you learnt something in that today, and that you will find a place to apply overload to your body in the next few weeks. It really does make an amazing difference in the long run. Make sure its 6 weeks prior to your A-race, and do not be scared to fall apart somewhere in the middle. That is the point.

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