Have you heard about supercompensation? Do you ever think about how your body reacts to training? Well I’ve written this post in order to help you understand the principle of supercompensation and why runners should care about it.
It’s a great feeling when you look at the past training run and see that you now can go faster with the same moderate heart rate or you can run longer without a break than ever before. But do you know the principle how your body is improving? The answer is supercompensation.
The basics of this principle is showed in the graphic above: When you train, you use your body and after the run your body doesn’t have the same ability to perform because of exhaustion. With a workout you stimulate your body to react but first you need to recover. Because of the stimulus of training, your body won’t just recover from the work load but tries to be able to perform at least the same training run better and more prepared. That effect is called supercompensation and is the basic principle of how you improve through physical exercise.
If you look again on the image above, what do you think will happen if you train when your body is still recovering from the last run? Right, your fitness level might drop below the level of the last training. If you train to early regularly you fall into a negative supercompensation and end up being over-trained and your running ability decreases over time. That’s why it is very important to recover completely from a workout and train when your body has supercompensated in order to improve rather than worsening your fitness level.
Derived from the first two points understanding supercompensation helps you when you plan your future training. Training over an entire year is normally planned in different cycles that are based upon the period of supercompensation. You improve the most when you set your training to the point of the maximum supercompensation of the last training. Now the difficulty is to know when you’re ready to go again. That brings me to my next point…
Now that you understand the supercompensation principle the important thing is to find the perfect time after a workout where you can do your next training. That forces you to listen to your body and try to figure out how your body recovers. You should check muscle soreness, any pains and aches you might have and your overall fatigue. Do your next run when you feel rested and energized. Check if you feel more exhausted and tired over time or if you recover to the same body feeling in the same amount of time.
If you are any like me you don’t just wanna see improvement and enjoy running but you want to know how everything works. Supercompensation is one of the most basic theories in sport science. It helps us understand how the body reacts to training, not only in endurance sports but also when you do weight lifting to strengthen your muscles. After this principle has been described by the Russian scientist Nikolai Yakovlev in the 50s many further theories followed to unravel the secrets of training and improvement due to exercise.