Every week, ithlete will cover general questions on training and recovery, as well as specific best practices with Heart Rate Variability (HRV).
If you have a general question or a specific question on how to use ithlete you can email [email protected].
Question: I have taken a lot of time off and figured that I wanted to get ready for Rio and compete in the short sprints. I am 27 years old but I have been working for 3 years. I am in great shape as I love working out, but I know it’s not the same. I was doing track for nearly 10 years without a break and now I feel that I may be in jeopardy trying to do too much too soon. Knowing this, I have not seen any good advice on making a comeback in track and field as I rarely hear stories of athletes coming back after an extended time off. Any thoughts would be appreciated.
Answer: Historically big time offs rarely succeed, hence why they are so loved by the press and sports fans. Time off usually means a few things, meaning the athlete has moved away psychologically and environmentally from the sport. Many athletes move to cities and become professionals, and fail to come back because they are trying to do two or more jobs at the same time. Something has got to give. Regardless, no real rules of training exist, but I would obey the same general rules and almost pretend you are injured to be patient. Often the body is healthy and fresh from time off, but many small intrinsic muscles and specific joints and connective tissues are not ready.
Another sound principle is to open up later and wait for the last possible time to compete, be it indoors our outdoors on the first season. You should not give into the desire for getting times immediately. I would open up in Late January or early February, or wait until April if you can. Most comebacks fail because they don’t actually get back into the shape they were in. Some comebacks have given up a season, but it’s all individual if you are truly interested in competing beyond the recreational or "masters" level. Since you are looking for making a spot at Rio, I would work backwards thinking of what it takes to make Beijing and the European Athletics circuit.
Finally I would invest financially into bodywork or physiotherapy to get your body in alignment for sprinting. Taking time off creates adaptations structurally that really can predispose one to mechanical injury to the structures of the lower leg and soft tissues of the thigh. I am not sure of your budget but most money is spent on rehabilitation instead of prevention. See how the above suggestions workout and good luck with your goals.
Question: The last few weeks I have been hampered by nagging injuries and illness and I am getting frustrated with my training and coaching. I have been 100% compliant and seem never to finish a season healthy, even while spending my own money on massage and supplements. I just got injured again this past weekend and I was told it will take me 4-6 weeks to fully recover from this foot inflammation. My parents are from a small country so making the “B” standard isn’t a big deal in my event, but I don’t want to go to London and get embarrassed by being out of shape. What can I do with the ithlete app to help me ensure I am ready or at least be as fit as possible.
Answer: Very difficult to share explicit advice with such a general question, but what is possible is to share how to use ithlete to see how your training is going generally if you are following a traditional approach to training. Recovery isn’t going to be just a parasympathetic/sympathetic balance, as the body is far more complicated than just one measurement. For example a joint problem in the foot may be small enough not to create any real inflammation overload that can trigger poor HRV readings but could cost one a season if not managed.
One should mark a body chart or log physical ailments to joints, muscles, and connective tissues while monitoring the general emotional feelings during the day. Another solution is to look at your days off, usually Sunday, and see if those are getting better, the same, or reading poorly. Each week acts as a natural review to see if practices went well and if the weekly and monthly recovery trend is going up, down, or steady (same). Using the RPE for load, one can compare if what you are feeling subjectively with the objective HRV reading.
While low intensity work doesn’t help with functional recovery of the neuromuscular system, it does help with general fitness that can help with tapering and peaking. Pool workouts have helped champions in athletics such as Flo Jo, Mike Powell, and Jackie Joyner-Kersee be ready for great performances. Bike workouts done with purpose can also help, but like any cross training method remember that the alternative option has caveats like their own injury patterns. Distributing the options is a low risk method while taking advantage of each unique modality.
I would look to see at your remaining competitions before London and see if they are logistically smart tune-ups before London. Usually a race or two can benefit athletes if done right, but make sure your practices are going well in addition to your HRV scores. If both match up, meaning training is going well and you are not digging yourself into a hole (non planned overreaching) then you are prepared for championship competition. Unfortunately a little trial and error is always needed with this type of thing and being conservative is the right approach here. Good Luck at London and communicate your daily and weekly findings with your coach.