The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Monday, January 28, 2008

Over-Trained vrs. Under-recovered

Here’s how I see the difference between the words “over-training” and “under-recovered,” the source of a disagreement between Steve Perry and Scott Sonnon. In many ways, they are two sides of the same coin, but the implications are a bit different. “Beware of over-training” generally means: “don’t train too much, too hard.” Other wise, the system can break down. I’ve always looked at the positive spiral of physical adaptation goes: Stress, Nutrients, Rest. Get too much or too little of any one of them, and the system breaks down.

“Under-recovered” puts the emphasis more on the idea of “Stress, Nutrients, Recovery.” Rest would be an aspect of recovery—the only one that the average person knows. The more educated also include massage, Jacuzzi, icy/hot therapy, etc. The chemically inclined add various growth hormone and steroid cocktails in that, trying to speed the body’s ability to heal tissues or metabolize fatigue toxins.

Scott has an entire library of techniques for recovery: specialized breathing patterns, vibration drills, joint rotations, and movement stuff that goes beyond my understanding. All are designed to tease out the last bit of recovery potential.

There MUST be an absolute limit to the amount that the body can recover. What is it? I really don’t know. I do know that there are two basic positions among the athletic.
1) The longevity, sustained health approach, working for general energy, fitness, appearance, etc.
2) The competitive approach, employed by professional and committed amateur athletes. This flirts with the famous “Achilles’ Choice: a long dull life, or a short glorious one. Competitive athletes accept walking close the “Red Line” of potential damage or break-down. The truth is that, all other things being equal, the athlete willing to more closely approach this point of destruction—so long as he does not wobble over it—will outperform.

The difference, then, is both one of intent, and psychological preparedness to accept risk. That said, assuming that you have a set of objective/subjective standards for recovery: morning pulse rate, joint pain, muscle insertion point ache, reduction of swelling, quality of sleep, sex drive, morning temperature, etc., the “insufficiently recovered” approach is just one of attitude. In other words, you assume the process of recovery is not just one of not exercising too much, and getting enough sleep, but of actively seeking out techniques to speed that recovery. Will there still be limits? You bet. Is this approach appropriate for most people? I’m guessing not. Most people can barely handle a 30 minute walk three times a week, and won’t stretch afterward. Screw a “vibration drill.”

There are simply limits to the amount of time and effort anyone is willing to focus on the physical aspect of our lives. Everyone looks at this differently. Scott is a competitive athlete. From time to time my screwball friend climbs into the ring and lets someone take a shot at knocking his teeth out. For someone like this, inching close to the “red line” makes perfect sense. He’s willing to accept that risk. He’s an explorer of the very outer ranges of human physical potential.

Perry and I ain’t out there on that edge. Not that far. Both of us accept risks that many others will not, but discretion is the better part of valor: shit just takes longer to heal these days. Sad, but true.

All this is just to say that there is a continuum in, well, any activity. The question “what would you be willing to die for” which we just asked ties in. The competitive athlete walks the tightrope. Scott knows more about the recovery phase of this than anyone I’ve ever known, and I am slightly in awe of him. But I’ve taken ghastly risks with my financial life and career in pursuit of writing goals. Some of them make me shake my head, and were one hell of a lot more dangerous than risking a busted tendon or chronic flu. When we decide to love, we take risks there. Tananarive and I, by some standards, barely knew each other when she married me and moved cross-country to begin our lives together.

We human beings don’t have infinite resources, or infinite options. We must clarify our values and goals, be certain that our emotional time-bombs don’t doom our effort, decide how much risk we are ready to accept…and go for it.

“Over-trained”? “Under-recovered”? Two terms that mean pretty much the same thing, but one looks at the recovery process as a discipline every bit as manipulable as the process of inducing adaptation stress. Just like a person who meditates deeply can handle emotional stress that would crush the average person.

You pays your money, and you takes your chances.
I kind of like the tone Hillary has been taking lately. A little more sense of her speaking to the audiences rather than at them. Yeah, she’s the smart kid in class. We get that. But who is SHE? That’s an important thing to know, and I think Obama’s forced her to step up her game in this sense.

Bill, on the other hand…instinct tells me that he has definitely been playing nasty, and I’m starting to grasp a bit more of what Conservatives have been saying about him. Of course, since I can’t get myself to believe he’s doing anything really unscripted, looking at him gives us better insight into her. So they’re both politicians of the old school. You already know I hate that shit. Sigh.

The thing about Obama I like is that I routinely hear him synthesizing Yin-Yang into the Tao, something that a lot of people can’t even grasp. This is, by the way, something I NEVER heard Bush do, even once. For all his flaws, I heard Bill do it frequently. I haven’t heard Hillary do it much, but my instinct tells me that she absolutely has the capacity. In my mind, this is what constantly excites audiences: they sense that he is seeing the game from a different position than most human beings. I’d guess that being bi-racial and bi-cultural FORCED him to do this, or that he began life outside the “This OR That” perspective 99% of human beings are forced into. You can get out of that box with certain types of high intelligence, certain philosophical studies or inclinations, or certain kinds of life experience. You can have too much of this: thinking “the mugger and I are one” as the knife comes at your guts will end you in the morgue unless you’re an aikido master. Sometimes, unless you have the energy and training to function at that higher level, it’s better to say “you OR me” and treat life like a zero-sum game. You’re more likely to survive.

But I gravitate toward the statesmen and philosophers who have that higher perspective, and I believe they are the ones who have the potential to lift us up as a nation, and as a species. But you hav to have the energy and clarity to sustain it, otherwise, well, you’re a flake, a Hippy in the pejorative sense.

My suspicion, at this point, is that Barack Obama sees that resolved duality, and has the intelligence to synthesize information effectively. If so, he’s a once in a generation leader, and I’m having a great time watching the game.

And you know? Even if he doesn’t make it, there are a thousand young men and women out there watching him, saying: “if he can get that close to the goal line, I can carry the ball over it.” That’s how winners think. He may very well be the first 21st Century politician. He won’t be the last.

DAMN, this is fun to watch.
And the question for the day is: Who in your life helped you through an apparently insoluble problem? How did they do it?


Steve Perry said...

I'm the last guy to begrudge Scott his full-tilt physicality. Impresses the hell out of me -- just to watch him doing chins is fairly amazing, because I know how hard that is. If I can do a dozen, I'm happy; for him, that's not even warmed up.

And I was impressed with the knife class at the end of the session y'all did up here last year -- it is always a joy to watch somebody that well-trained move.

That said, I speak from the perspective of an older guy who wants to be in good enough shape to live a healthy and relatively-fit life, which is a different beast than somebody who operates at Scott's level.

The balance of health, fitness, and daily function is, by its nature, going to be different for a sixty-year-old writer than for a thirty-something professional athlete. What I need is different that what he needs. Doesn't mean I don't admire what he can do. Only that I am more in touch with my old form and I know what it can and cannot manage. This is not negative thinking, it's realistic assessment, based on feedback, and anybody who says "There are no limits to what you can do!" isn't just being hyperbolic ...

Reminds me of some of the stories about Bruce Lee, wherein he would show his students a move. "Here, do it this way."

Uh huh. Right ...

Sometimes an athletic genius who trains four or five hours a day and is somewhere close to peak might see an exercise differently than somebody half again his age and less gifted ...

Plus my natural iconoclastic nature that starts alarms blaring when I hear enthusiasm start to shade a bit toward the pool of snake-oil ...

We've had this conversation before. When you have gold, you don't need to put a bow on it, you just lay it out there. Underselling is better.

Anonymous said...

Choice: a long dull life, or a short glorious one.

don't get how you said this
and then underneath
put forth the much more real
complex and wide
continuum stuff!

the above doesn't begin to
approach the list of alternatives to how as life can be lived
(positive and negative)
or how long it will last


LaVeda H. Mason said...

"Who in your life helped you through an apparently insoluble problem? How did they do it?"

A long time ago, a boyfriend exposed me to Tai Chi by introducing me to his teacher, and working out with me.

The relationship with his teacher lasted longer than my relationship with him :-).

But, one of the things that I learned from this boyfriend was that I should always follow my instincts - that they will not always be right, but they will get more accurate as I use them.

When it was time for the relationship to end (boyfriend), I was devastated. But I was able to use what I had learned from his teacher, him, and form practice (at one point I was practicing 3 hours/day - I was in a *lot* of emotional pain) to heal .

His teacher taught me that the mind follows the body. Being young, I didn't get it, and was looking for a 'magic fix', that would solve my problems.

Years later, as I am recovering from some difficult times, and am looking for a way to rebuild, I re-discover 'the mind follows the body' thing, and this time, I get it! [*Still* no 'magic fix'... oh, well (shrug).]

With respect to the over-training/under-recovered disagreement:

The only person who can tell you how close you can get to the line, is you.

You have to listen to your inner self... that whisper that tells you when you have reached 'enough'.

Sometimes, you won't want to listen; you'll want to push on.

But, after a while, you'll realize that when you don't listen, you are only hurting yourself.

The flip side is, when that whisper tells you that you're not hitting your target as hard as you can; that you can do better, go farther, or longer... do you listen to it, even though it hurts? Or do you listen to your aching (but still working) muscles, and go rest?

Everyone has their own answer that gives them their best results.

So I guess that the answer is, "It depends." Although, if you follow what I just said, I don't see any reason why you can't have a 'long, glorious' life, combining the best of the two. :-)

Dan Moran said...

Allegedly Babe Ruth once was asked by a nervous rookie what he should do when he got up to the plate. Ruth replied, "Well, I'd go up and hit a homer."

Anonymous said...

"Who in your life helped you through an apparently insoluble problem? How did they do it?"

hmmm so far
I haven;t reall seen
any of the propblems in my life
as insoluble

some of them it took me awhile
(some it took years)
to find a solution
but none seemed insoluble

I've used all kinds of help
from books
from people
from what I cobbled together myself
with reason and imagination

all in all the biggest insoluble
I see is that future one
none of us
can forestall forever

as a lovely doctor
for whom I worked told me
death is not all that difficult
it's how you get there
that can be horrendous

hopefully I'll know enough
if I'm on one of those horrendous paths\
to bow out gracefully before the pavement ends


Steven Barnes said...

The "short glorious life or long dull one" is a very old philosophy. I don't ascribe to it, just used it to clarify the polarities.

Lynn said...

Insoluble problem? If it's truly insoluble there's nothing you can do except face it with as much calm and dignity as possible, but first you need to ask yourself, "Is it really insoluble or do I just not like any of the possible solutions?"

asha vere said...

What is funniest about this campaign is that people are acting like this is blood warfare on the Democratic side when the policy differences between the three leading candidates are infinitesimal.

It's not as though the other candidates won't all end up smiling and endorsing the eventual nominee. This is all a charade, and it frustrated me that people let themselves fall for it.

Steven Barnes said...

Oh, I don't think its a charade. I think that the people involved genuinely want to be the ones in the Oval Office. I won' t pretend to read their minds and say WHY they want to be there. But the fact that "either way the party wins" doesn't put their name in the history books, or give them the captain's chair. Yes, they'll grin and circle-jerk one another after the nomination is done, but some of that animosity is quite real. Some, of course, must be theater as well.

el viejo soldado said...

Who in your life helped you through an apparently insoluble problem? How did they do it?

Lev Golad. Lev was a denizen of the Fairfax/Pico area in LA. I met him early in life as he was a customer of mine on my paper route as well as the man that introduced me to Canter's and the joys of lox and scrambled eggs w/green onions mixed into it.

Lev also taught me Perspective and Proportion.
Something, I forgot what, had me mega pissed one day and I told Lev about it, and then he also explained the meaning of Trivial to me. After that he said ... "That's not a problem. Your issue is that you don't know the difference between a problem and an inconvenience".

It came out that Lev was an expert at discerning both ... he was an Auschwitz survivor. He spared my then 13-year old sensitivities where detail was concerned, but it wasn't like I hadn't heard about Auschwitz before, and I certainly knew what prison was, but at the time I didn't know what a "kapo' was and found out later in life.

Lev gave me many examples of his philosophy, but the one that rang my bell and that I remember the most was his house on fire scenario. He went on to explain that while a house on fire is a terrible thing, it's fundamentally an inconvenience. He said that what differentiates this inconvenience from a problem is your (and your family's if applicable) ability to GET OUT of a burning home or not even be there when it goes up. He felt that a home in ashes down to the foundation was AWFULLY inconveniencing, but survivable, and that being in there and not being able to get out was the beginning of a short-lived problem of survival.

It was a long and over time conversation, but the above was the gist of things, so when something comes up in my life or the lives of my family this is my measuring stick ... Problem, or Inconvenience. Thankfully, most things fall into the latter category. This is also as I found out later in life in spades, that this is a GREAT philosophy if you ever find yourself in a shooting war.

Mike Ralls said...

OT: I just found out one of my favorite authors died earlier this month;

If you've never read the Flashman books, I'd heavily reccomend them, especially "Flashman and the Redskins," which is the best fictional book on the old west I've ever read.

His death got me thinking though; his works still live on. It's very possible that a hundred years after he's dead many people will still be enjoying his creation. I was wondering, to what degree do you think a desire to outlive your own death plays in a writer's effort?

Steve Perry said...

What is the Woody Allen line? I don't want to be immortal through my work. I want to be immortal by not dying ...

I write for somebody's beer money, not the ages. Never know what will stand the test of time, -- Dickens wrote for the penny-dreadfuls and was considered a no-talent hack -- but I don't figure my stuff will be there when the roaches take back over ...

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