Friday, May 21, 2010

Use It or Lose It!

This is probably one of my biggest pet peaves and an issue that I spend a lot of time discussing with athletes each year. And, if you've heard this from me on several occasions, I apologize. But, being that we are knee deep into the season, I thought that I would take a minute and review a simple concept.

Deconditioning, also called detraining is simply the effect of losing fitness when you stop training. The Principle of Use / Disuse is one of the main principles of conditioning. The concept is that “if you don’t use it, you lose it”. How quickly you lose fitness depends on how fit you are, how long you have been training, and on how long you stop.

Many people stop exercising at times for many reasons. It is not uncommon for baseball players to train intensely during the winter months and significantly decrease or stop training altogether once the season begins thinking that they will be able to maintain their fitness level throughout the summer. I hear it time and time again, "I really work hard in the off-season so I don't need to now." However, this thought process simply doesn’t work. With the overall length of the baseball season, the day-to-day grind of playing / practicing almost everyday, and the physical stress of throwing / swinging, it is almost impossible to maintain your strength and conditioning levels throughout the entire season without some sort of plan. Studies show that deconditioning begins in about 2 weeks if training is stopped altogether. Once lost, it takes nearly three times as long to recondition as it took to “detrain”. After 3 months following the end of training, researchers have found that athletes lost about ½ of their aerobic condition.

Top Ways to Maintain Your Fitness Level

(1) Don’t quit completely. At a minimum, performing 1-2 high-quality, high-intensity training sessions each week can help maintain your fitness level.

(2) Account for the body’s ability to adapt to training. DO NOT keep doing the same routine over and over. Adjust your training plan to gradually progress the training loads and intensities in order to avoid, detraining, overtraining, and injury.

(3) Using a variety of different exercise techniques, while staying true to the training goals and performance needs, can help to limit overtraining, enhance motivation, and increase training adaptations.

(4) Continue training (well-body conditioning, cross training, etc) through injuries.

David Yeager, ATC, CSCS

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