To ensure training sessions and the programmes devised are as effective as possible you need to follow sound training principles. The fundamental training effect is based on the principle of adaptation. The body or mind will react to the stress imposed by training (physical, mental and technical stress) by increasing their capacity to cope with it. The coach’s task is to create the conditions that impose the correct level and balance of stress to cause an appropriate adaption effect. The process of adaptation is governed by other training principles.
The fundamental training principles on which training programmes are based is overload and recovery. For any performance component to improve, the system must be appropriately overloaded, it will then adapt to the greater demands. For example endurance training overloads the cardiovascular system (heart, lungs and circulation); by making it work harder for a longer duration than normal, it allows greater amounts of oxygen to be taken in and used to generate energy. Strength training overloads the muscles, causing them to work harder than normal and so be able to contract in a more forceful and effective way resulting in the athlete being a more powerful a runner.
Technical skills sometimes breakdown under the stress of racing. To prevent this, the athlete needs to be exposed to similar or more demanding conditions and help him or her to learn to deal with these and produce the desired technical movement. To improve an athlete’s capacity to concentrate, they ultimately need to be exposed to increasingly distracting conditions so that he or she learns to use mental techniques to maintain focus.
Overload – for training to have an effect, the demands of the activity must be greater than those with which the athlete can comfortably cope. The coach’s skill is to impose the right training load – too little and there will be no gain; too much and you may cause distress, injury and ultimately debilitating fatigue (overtraining).
The principle of GRADUAL progressive overload suggests that in order to DEVELOP PHYSICAL CAPACITY THE ATHLETE NEEDS TO BE PROGRESSIVELY CHALLENGED. As the athlete adapts, the nature of this challenge should be gradually increased. Increase in training loadings should match with the body’s gradually increasing capacity to cope with and adapt to training.
Overload can be achieved by manipulating the FIT factors: frequency, intensity and time. The athlete can:
F train more frequently (frequency; how many sessions or repetitions)
I train harder (intensity; how close to maximum effort)
T train for longer (duration/time; how many times, for how long)
The adaption gains actually occur after, not during, the activity in which the system has been overloaded. The body adapts to the stress imposed during training afterwards and it cannot do this fully unless some recovery time is allowed. The more intense the training load, the longer the recovery period. Athletes MUST take adequate recovery time between sessions and with at least one if not two complete rest days each week.
Rest and recovery is vital (a rest day is a training day); it is during the easy and rest periods that the body actually adapts to the load previously imposed through hard training.
For continual gains to be made, the loads imposed through training need to become progressively harder as the athlete begins to adapt to the increased load imposed (the principle of progressive overload). If the training loads are no longer imposed, there will be a gradual reversal effect and the adaptation effects will gradually be lost (the principle of reversibility). The adaption effect is also highly specific so the training must therefore be highly specific (the principle of specificity). For example plyometric exercises are more likely to develop the ability of a runner to run faster rather than weight training because the movement patterns are similar to the event.
For athletes who are may be involved in training and competition in a number of sports in addition to running (i.e. triathlon), it is vital for the coach to build up an accurate picture of training loads, rest and recovery for the athlete as a whole. If insufficient periods of rest and recovery are not implemented the likelihood of injury and fatigue related illness, susceptibility to colds and infections may increase.
The way of visually monitoring the training loads is by using the Traffic Light Rating System (to follow).