Monday, October 18, 2010

Training Sore Muscles

In my previous post, I mentioned the Minnesota Climbing Co-Op FFFFFF.  The event was a huge success!  I heard that there were at least 80 climbers, and there were well over 100 who attended. Pictures from the event can be seen here.  I'm sure that the organizers were very pleased with the turn-out.  The climbing was fantastic, the hospitality was top-notch, the costumes were hilarious, and Meg G even won a door prize with some Metolius tape (which will be put to good use in Utah in a few weeks), some Peace Coffee, and some hand salve from Joshua Tree Life who make awesome organic salve and lip balms.  I, on the other hand, was shut out of the prize department.....

That being said, I am sore as hell from all the climbing.  It has been a long time since I have climbed that hard for pretty much seven hours strait!  Then on Sunday, Bourdo and I hung another piece of the puzzle that is becoming his home climbing gym on the ceiling of his garage.  Two guys trying to hang a 3'x8' sheet of ACX plywood on a 10' high ceiling with one ladder was quite the cluster.  Aaron was just as sore as I was, but of course, after we muscled the sheet into place and finally managed to screw it in, we had to climb on it.  20 minutes later we were spent, and I was definitely feeling the soreness from the previous day.  So now it's Monday, and even after a totally awesome back rub from Meg last night, I am more sore today than I was yesterday.  So even though I am trying to climb or do something else active every day in preparation for some craziness in the Black Canyon, I have decided that today shall be a rest day.  But in the spirit of staying motivated, I set out on a goal tonight of determining something about my rest days.  Are rest days an important aspect of my training strategy, or am I just being a pussy?

When you are sore the following day after a hard workout, you have Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness.  The actual mechanics of how DOMS works and why you get sore isn't completely understood, but what has basically happened is that you have damaged the muscle from working it so hard.  This sounds bad, but it's actually a good thing due to the fact that when muscles repair themselves, they come back stronger, and something else called the repeated bout effect.  The repeated bout effect describes how the body of a person experiencing DOMS quickly repairs the affected muscles and afterwards, the newly repaired muscles are adapted to protect against further damage.  Once the muscles have repaired, we experience this as faster recovery time from repeated activity.  This follows closely with Nikolai Jakowlew's principle of supercompensation, which paraphrasing from Wikipedia states, "after training, the body enters the recovery period, and doesn't stop the repairs once the muscles return to the base level. Instead, the body will feel the need to adjust itself to a higher level of fitness in anticipation of the next training session and will enter a period of supercompensation during which fitness surpasses the initial fitness level."

Continued training during supercompensation is how increased results are achieved, but that doesn't answer the question on training through DOMS. 

There are two schools of thought on training those sore muscles. The first says that rest days are crucial.  Adequate rest gives the muscles time to recover from the stress of training, and overtraining can occur from breaking down the muscle tissue faster than the body can repair it.  This can lead to decreased perfomance and even worse, injury.  The other school is based on the theory that the body is already in repair mode on the muscles suffering DOMS working to make them both stronger and more resilient against repeated abuse.  Working these muscles while DOMS is ongoing will make the body perceive an even greater threat.  This will in turn cause the body to work overtime on that muscle multiplying the performance and recovery benefits of your workout.  What I take from the conversation is don't overdo it, but don't be afraid to push yourself through a little bit of pain.  Not to mention the fact that both camps agree that some light exercise can help alleviate the symptoms of DOMS.  The question of when a rest day is necesary needs to be based on the level of fatigue and the level of intensity and duration of the planned workout for today.  So my conclusion is that Aaron's and my construction project and short climbing session yesterday was a good thing, and my break today was probably a good thing as well.  And my superconclusion is that I'm not a pussy, I'm just getting a little bit soft.

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