Methodology of Training 2.0 – Component 2: Time and timing.

This component is very important and still ignored at the same time 😉
There are different ways of looking at the time-factor.

First of all there is the personal timing. I have written about this before in another blog. At the very same moment the perfect time to train might differ for two athletes. I will repeat myself a bit by pointing at chronotyping. The best known example is the different circadian or day-night rhythms that athletes might display. Some of them are “larks”, performing at their best early in the day i.e. in the morning, while others are “owls”, performing at their best later in the day i.e. evening.

There are two situations:
1. either you more or less have a choice when to train (you can choose to work out in the morning or in the evening) or
2. you don’t have a choice in case of competitions or matches at a given time that you can’t change.

In the first situation I always workout at the best time for the athletes. While the morning-types work out in the morning, the evening-types do their main training sessions later in the day.
They are professional athletes, so not bound to times for work or school. And since they are competing at the highest level, small improvements start to make a big difference.

With competitions or tournaments you have no choice, so you train the athletes to adapt and to compete at their very best, even if the time of competition is not at their natural best time. In other words: the last few weeks before competitions train at the time the athlete has to compete.

But apart from that, scientists discovered more biorhythms such as the ultradian rhythm or BRAC (Basic Rest-Activity Cycle) of approximately 90 minutes in which e.g. the dominance of the brain hemisphere changes and the arousal fluctuates.
The lunar rhythm or moon cycle approximately 30 days, often confused with the menstrual cycle. The circannual rhythm or year cycle (the seasons), important for light, UV light and temperature of approximately 365 days, influencing e.g. the trainability of strength.

All of these cycles influence the individual variability of human functioning and performance one way or another. Lots of serious research has been done but very little of this knowledge is used in our daily work. We take too many things for granted and prefer to make our brains explode by thinking about and discussing optimal periodization models, the perfect abdominal exercise or the optimal load in squats, in order to improve 0.01 second while ignoring this issue where probably 0.02 seconds can be gained.

The second way of looking at the time-factor finds its origin in human biology. Almost all parameters oscillate in careful controlled cycles or rhythms, arousal, heart rate, breathing, brainwaves, hormonal output, etc. By training we disturb these rhythms, and allostatic systems make sure the rhythms return to their baseline bandwidth. The “famous” supercompensation-curve is an expression of this phenomenon.
Interestingly we often do not even distinguish in the most simple time distinctions: short term vs. long term.
And as we should realize, often things that seem a good idea in the short-term, work out badly or backfire in the long-term. Just think about the use of antibiotics or cortisol in medicine, or the use of plastics. And at the other hand the many brilliant ideas that were discarded at first sight and that proved to be brilliant ideas in the long term.

We humans are pretty bad in predicting the future. We barely take biological rhythms into account and prefer linear thinking instead: the more the better, the longer the better, the faster the better, etc.

Take your time to study time and timing.

Limited bibliography:

Tamm, A.S; Lagerquist, O; Ley A.L; Collins.D.F: Chronotype Influences Diurnal Variations in the Excitability of the Human Motor Cortex and the Ability to Generate Torque during a Maximum Voluntary Contraction; J.Biol.Rhythms Vol.24, 2009, pg.211-224.

Lastella, M; Roach, G.D; Hurem, C.D; Sargent, C: Does chronotype affect elite athletes’ capacity to cope with the training demands of triathlon?; In: Living in a 24/7 world: The impact of circadian disruption on sleep, work and health. Australasian Chronobiology Society, Adelaide, Australia, pp.25-28, 2010.

Kunurozca, L; Roden, L.C; Rae, D.E: Perception of effort in morning-type cyclists is lower when exercising in the morning; Journal of Sports Sciences 2014,pg.2-9.

Drust, B; Waterhouse, J; Atkinson, G; Edwards, B; Reilly, T: Circadian rhythms in sports performance- an update; Chronobiol.Int. Vol.22, No1, 2005, pg.21-44.

Shibata, S; Tahara, Y: Circadian rhythm and exercise; J Phys Fitness Sports Med, Vol.3, No.1, 2014, pg. 65-72.

Teo, W; Newton, M.J; McGuigan, M.R: Circadian rhythms in exercise performance: Implications for hormonal and muscular adaptation; J.Sports Sci Med, Vol.10, 2001, pg.600-606.

Di Cagno, A; Battaglia, C; Giombini, A; Piazza, M; Fiorilli, G; Calcagno, G; Pigozzi, F; Borrione, P: Time of Day – Effects on Motor Coordination and Reactive Strength in Elite Athletes and Untrained Adolescents; J.Sports Sci Med, Vol.12, 2013, pg.182-189.

About Henk Kraaijenhof

My name is Henk Kraaijenhof and I started this blog as a random collection of concepts, ideas, stories and events that are important or interesting to me in my work as an international performance consultant in a wide range of fields, and sometimes outside of my work. I will try to post a new entry every 3-4 days. Feel free to comment if you like.
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