23 December 2012

Off Season Rest

With short, cold days, some wet weather, plenty of (domestic Japanese) business travel and work, I have not gotten in many long rides since Jerome and I did an intense Brevet in early October.  This has been my "off season", from late October until early January ... with riding to start the new year depending on schedule and weather.

I have at least been working on my bikes and reading a Google-hosted U.S. randonneur discussion board, which has focused over the last few days on a Mayo Clinic study announced in June and published in "Heart" magazine that suggests too much intense exercise over too many months and years, can damage the heart and lead to increased incidence of early death.

A Thanksgiving week Wall Street Journal article sensationalized this, with a headline suggesting runners had "one foot in the grave".  (The article is available here ... behind the WSJ paywall.)

One key is to be sure not to exercise at too high an intensity for too long a period.  Brevets require very extended effort, but the intensity level is quite low -- and the key to riding a longer Brevet is to know how to continue to make the greatest forward progress with the least effort.  Managing intensity levels is very important for proper training.  Short bursts of intensity -- intervals, hill climbs -- are crucial.  And books such as Younger Next Year (co-written by the doctor younger brother of a former colleague of mine) suggest a big mistake older people make is to avoid intensity altogether.  But training at too intense a level for too long a period will certainly grind down an athlete and it seems reasonable that it could damage the heart muscle.

Another key is to be sure to allow adequate recovery time after any kind of extreme event.  As much as a month is required for full recovery after a marathon, a longer triathlon, or a weeklong cycling event such as Transalp.  A Boulder Colorado newspaper article provides nice balanced report.

So does riding a longer Brevet or randonee damage the heart?  I do not know.  It probably depends on how one rides the event.  If the Brevet can be completed at moderate intensity, without extreme sleep deprivation, and with adequate recovery, then I doubt it is harmful.  And riding these or other multi-day events is an acquired skill.  The first time I did Tokyo-Itoigawa, I could barely get out up off the floor the next morning.  Now it seems like just a regular hard single day.  After trying PBP in 2011, I felt as if I had put myself through a brutal punishment.  But after subsequent long events, I get through without nearly the degree of suffering, and I recover much more quickly.

If exercise involves extreme intensity and punishment ... and is followed too soon by other similar events, rinse and repeat, then yes, it may not be good for one's health.  Is that really a surprise?

1 comment:

CM said...

I sprint hard every day, morning and night on my 40 minute commute. I wonder if that is bad? I'm worried.