ATHLETE x SCIENCE
ATHLETE x SCIENCE
There has been a long standing debate on whether or not higher volumes of endurance training equate to elite caliber athletic performances. While it is true that many elite athletes train with much higher volume and intensity than the recreational athlete, it certainly hasn’t been shown to be a necessary requirement in order to compete on this level. With increasing volume of training comes a heightened risk of injury, a potentially weakened immunity, and a greater chance of overtraining and burnout.
Each athlete is individually capable of handling a given workload, and until the body adapts, this volume should only slightly increase with caution so as to not shock the body into a fatigue- or injury-ridden state. Over time, as more training experience is acquired, this volume can gradually drift upward into the 60-, 70-, 80-, and even 100+ mile weeks. By no means should an inexperienced runner jump into a 120-mile week training plan and expect to escape unscathed; in fact, some of the highest caliber elite athletes operate at half that volume, under a specific, periodized program designed to substitute quality miles over a quantity of miles. However, others swear by the increases in volume as the key to taking performance to the next level. Is the reward of this high mileage training worth the risk?
It is well-established in research that exercise in either a high-intensity or high-volume capacity stresses the immune system, making an individual more susceptible to infection, especially immediately following a training session. Unfortunately, a wide breadth of this research involves recreational athletes and sedentary individuals (Mårtensson, Nordebo, & Malm, 2014). When considering this trend in elite athletes, one must consider that impact of lifestyle, training tolerance, recovery ability, and nutritional intake which can greatly affect the strength and resistance of an athlete’s immune system.
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