How to Ensure the Best Fitness Gains

Recovery and, in turn, adaptation are often underestimated components of multi-sport training. Athletes who train at varying levels of intensity for a variety of disciplines should incorporate recovery and adaptation as integral parts of their overall training plan.

Recovery is the period of time required for the body to repair damage caused by training or competing. Failure to include the appropriate amount of recovery in your training cycles can lead to overtraining, hampering your progress as an athlete.

More: Determining Your Race Recovery Time

Research from the ACSM Health Fitness Journal showed that "10 to 20 percent of athletes who train intensely experience overtraining, which results in chronic decreases in performance and impaired ability to train." 

Adaptation is the way the body programs muscles to remember particular activities, movements or skills. When you repeat an activity (race), movement (walking lunge) or skill (catch-up swim drill), your body adapts to the stress, and the skill or activity becomes easier for you to perform. It is in this adaptation period that improvements are seen in your physiological and psychological state, and this is where fitness is gained.

So, for multi-sport athletes who juggle swimming, cycling, running, strength and flexibility sessions, recovery and adaptation can play a significant role in promoting and maintaining health and success.

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In order to grasp the importance of recovery and adaptation, athletes must understand the basic principles of training. The primary goal of training is to improve fitness so that athletes can meet the specific demands of their activity. These two processes are most easily understood as part of a cyclical process, where the athlete's body after being exposed to a training session:

  1. Responds to the stress
  2. Recovers
  3. Super-compensates and then
  4. Adapts

More: The 4 Phases of Training

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