In this informative episode of The Athlete’s Compass podcast, the hosts delve into the critical importance of consistent training for everyday athletes, highlighting the role of stress in fostering physical resilience and adaptation. Key discussions include the General Adaptation Syndrome theory, balancing training with life stress, and the significance of personalized training plans. Additionally, the episode explores the use of Heart Rate Variability (HRV) as a tool to gauge training readiness and stress management. Practical advice is offered on starting training sessions, the importance of sleep for recovery, and managing alcohol intake for optimal performance. The episode also introduces a couple of features of the Athletica training platform, designed to aid athletes in managing their training and stress levels, and concludes with key takeaways on the necessity of consistent training, stress management, and recovery.



Paul (00:25.059)

Hello and welcome to the fourth episode of the Athletes Compass where we navigate training, fitness and health for everyday athletes. Last week we talked about what an everyday athlete is and how everyday athletes are different than elite athletes when it comes to training volume and time management. One thing we share though, is the need for consistent training. This week we'll talk about why everyday athletes need to be training on a regular basis to make gains. Paul, we're gonna start with you today to set us up with some understanding.

Why do everyday athletes need to train consistently? What is the physiology behind the training?

Paul (01:44.155)

Mm-hmm. Yep, it's a pretty important one to get figured out for all of us, Paul. Basically, at the end of the day, when we move our bodies, we create a stress, a form of stress. Now remember, stress can be bad, but it can also be very good, right? You always need to get a certain amount of stress in your life. And this exercise stress, let's just start, let's just think it's...

It's a good thing. It always begins with a good amount of stress. And there's a theory that was brought forth by someone named Hans Sele. And I forget the year actually, but it was way long ago. And ultimately, there's issues around this, but at the end of the day, when you hit your body with some form of a stress,

There's an initial insult, let's just call it, but lo and behold, the job of the body is to, and this is all animals, of course, the job is to adapt to that stress, to form resiliency for the next time. And so that the next time when you are stressed like that, it is irrelevant, right? It's just like your body handles it ultimately. And that's what you're trying to

That's what you're trying to do. So this, the consistency of that training with appropriate stress winds up being like a staircase that you build up and up and up and up. And then all of a sudden you, you know, you're looking at an Olympian, you know, at the pinnacle of our, you know, what this might actually look at. If you're looking at a, you know, someone on the podium, Marjaana sent me a nice, like a little cartoon

You know, it was the, you could see the individuals in the podium, right, one, two, three, but then the cartoon extended with all the building blocks of all the stress that was ultimately accumulated and all the things that were done to build, to receive that stress, to absorb that stress as we kind of, we go up. So that's kind of the starting point of this theory and this area that we're gonna talk about today, Paul.

Paul (04:14.976)

Marjaana, what do you, as a coach, what do you see as that general adaptation syndrome, you know, in your training as an Ironman athlete or as a coach?

Marjaana Rakai (04:29.632)

I'm pretty familiar with the general adaptation syndrome. For my athletes, though, I always consider the overall life stress and how their training fits in. Oftentimes, the problem is not getting them to do their session. The problem often is the...

then it might take a little bit longer for them to recover from those training sessions because they are not elite athletes who have time to rest and make sure that they are ready for the next session. So for everyday athletes,

Marjaana Rakai (05:14.918)

I am always trying to figure out how often can they do high intensity interval training, for example. What else is happening in their lives? I have, I had an athlete who was, or is responsible for any time there's a crisis, for example, now in the middle East. She is responsible for evacuate.

being Norwegian citizens. So she lives at work. She is there 24 hours. She is just, you know, binning it for work. So for her, of course, the stress is just so huge that there's no point even doing anything other than go outside, get five minutes of walk and fresh air and come back if she can.

So understanding the athlete in front of you is so important. And any theory that was developed years ago doesn't even matter at that situation. So to me, I always have to like, okay, how is this person sleeping? What is their work situation, family situation? And take it from there. But oftentimes I find like even

One high intensity interval session is enough for most of them per week. And it might take a little bit longer for them to recover from that than it would for example, somebody who has more time to recover from.

Paul (07:03.295)

Yeah, if I can just go on top of that, Paul, that's a brilliant example, Marjaana, is this client of yours, she has these other stresses that are outside of her exercise stress, right? And both stressors share similar traits in that. So let's compare a high intensity interval training exercise session in that

Paul (07:04.67)


Paul (07:31.723)

you know, that's generally in a healthy state that's perceived as a positive stress on the body and we adapt accordingly. But when we do that type of exercise, we get a big, there's a bunch of hormones that many of us have probably heard of, like adrenaline and like cortisol. And these types of, these are stress hormones so that are there.

that are important to leverage the, I guess our ability to do that exercise and they stay with us. They remain elevated and they probably relate to the fact that session usually feels really good. Now, unfortunately in your friend's situation as well, if she's in another alarm state, she's gonna continue to have this cortisol and adrenaline way up here as well.

And now there's a confounder because now we have two high stressors that are, she's really in the alarm state and she's not getting to the, I guess the recovery or the adaptation kind of phase as much. And this is where the understanding, the context that you are in as, as an athlete. You know, we did last, last episode we spoke about having that plan, but here's a great example where you need to appreciate your context and you need to be,

either working with your coach or knowing and learning for yourself, developing that field that we spoke about to change up the session on the fly and probably do maybe, maybe she would be, you know, more inclined and better off to do an L2 session, which is kind of more homeostatic, fat burning, calming, almost compared to the, compared to the HIIT session, right, Marjaana?

Marjaana Rakai (09:19.982)

Absolutely, but Often times Often times these high achieving clients that have high profile jobs. They love to do heat They love to push themselves so when she first came to me a few years ago, she was completely burned out and I had to Twist her arm to do just walking

Paul (09:22.737)

Ha ha

Paul (09:32.5)


Marjaana Rakai (09:50.534)

keeping heart rate super low and eventually after a few months where I saw that okay she's coming down from that exhaustion and the burn.

Marjaana Rakai (10:05.914)

which she loved. But not in the beginning because it was just so clear to me that she needs just to calm down and get her nervous system back in order because she had gone through a similar period at work where she basically never left.

Paul (10:24.483)

Yeah, yeah, so if we can, like this is setting us up perfectly, Marjaana, for if we're looking at the general outlay of the Hans Selye general adaptation syndrome figure that we will link to, remember we have this first alarm reaction that actually occurs, then you adapt that, so the alarm

Marjaana Rakai (10:31.171)

Thank you.

Paul (10:54.415)

Phase three is kind of the unfortunate one that we're getting to, right? And that is exhaustion. And that's like, you're getting, now you're drilling yourself into the ground, right? So that's if you have hit sessions all the time, if you're bombarded with other stressors like your friend has, and then you throw family stressors in there, then you throw a lack of sleep, poor nutrition, all these sorts of things. And now we are, you know, the exhaustion.

occurs and the reserves are depleted, and that is the final phase. And then, well, you're not gonna be, that's ultimately overtraining at the end of the day. So these are the various different phases that we have in this. Again, if I can go back to Athletica, the goal of Athletica is to keep you healthy as an athlete so that you continue to adapt. And I wanna actually identify, highlight two key,

features of Athletica that serve to do that if I can. And one, the first one is that's the entire basis of Athletica is the, what is it called? Your performance profile. So everyone that onboards into Athletica, you will, if you start in with Athletica, you put in your race date and you connect your wearable, you have this line of the general adaptation syndrome.

to get you to your race in peak form. So it's those loads, if you see loading on Athletica, that load is the marker of stress. So your loading is ideally put out, theoretically, it's not perfect, you know your context, but we put the theoretical maximum out in front of you to get you to the start line where you have.

Paul (12:39.831)

Thank you.

Paul (12:47.191)

ideal fitness, stressed accordingly, and then freshness as well towards the end with the taper, so that you pull out of it. And then the other important feature we should definitely speak on eventually is the Workout Reserve. And this really looks at, we'll go into this in more detail in subsequent episodes, but I'm just so proud of the team. Andrea Zignoli, especially with his, it's his.

He's a key member in AI with Athletica and he invented this, but it's basically looking at the last six weeks of your data on your watch. And it's looking at how recent you've had a stress, the stress that's in front of you. And if the reserve goes below zero, well then...

you're really stressing your body. You're stressing your body more than you ever have in the past six weeks, and you need to recognize that. And I think without this Workout Reserve, you really wouldn't have the awareness very well that you're working that hard. So those are two very strong tools that you have on board with Athletica to get the general adaptation syndrome right for you.

So yeah, I just wanted to highlight that.

Paul (14:12.01)

Yeah. And one of the things that I really like about Athletica, because I use it for my own training, is how the program continuously adds small chunks of volume and just a little bit of extra stress each week to my program, then it lets me relax. It also does the same for the programs for my athletes. That seems to be the general idea of Athletica. And the question that

that comes to mind is that when does the fitness happen? When does the fitness gains happen? Does that happen at rest? Does that happen during the stress?

Paul (14:51.683)

Well, yeah, it's always happening. So we are cells with DNA, and we're always adapting to that stress in accordance with our environment. That's the role of that DNA and the nucleus of the cell. So we have to give it, it's hard to actually say that it's necessarily.

occurring in sleep, but that's the main time when it's kind of occurring. So, but it does actually occur continually in our lives. But yeah, they ultimately, again, remember the formula, proper training equals workout plus recovery. So it's the recovery phase where the adaptation part, the...

you know, phase two in the Selye model is actually occurring in terms of when you're getting that recovery back and adapting.

Paul (15:55.358)

So I've heard that called super compensation. Why is it called that?

Paul (16:03.031)

Well, because yeah, it is, it is because, and again, it's just a theory, but it's, yeah, you're super compensating because you are, coined the phrase, building, you're building back better, right? You're getting, yeah, you're stressing your body and you're telling all, you're giving it the signal to go and build back all of the.

the proteins and the resources that it requires to adapt to the next stress that you endure. And yeah, the next time that you go and play or train, you will, you're able to do even more work than the last time. And some of the, maybe I'll get Marjaana to reflect on some of the...

Paul (16:32.979)


Paul (16:56.631)

evidence in her training that she's felt. When have you felt almost, you know, powerful or super adapting, Marjaana? Describe that.

Marjaana Rakai (17:06.646)


Paul (17:08.084)

Yeah, give us an example, because I know I've seen it in you. As an athlete, I've seen it in you.

Marjaana Rakai (17:16.522)

Well, it's clear that my body adapts to similar type of training way better when I've slept good, when my stress level is low and environmental stress level is low. So previously before this summer we lived in Dubai which is highly polluted.

although nobody talks about it. And I just noticed every time I left Dubai, how everything just felt so much easier, because I was able to actually get more oxygen in me and less stressor like heat and the air pollution. So environmental stressors are a real deal.

you should not overlook those. But it's just been amazing the difference to train in an environment where I am happy with lots of greenery and nature around me, clean air, cooler air too. I love like five degrees Celsius. That's my sweet spot.

So yeah, it's just, you know, it is really hard as an everyday athlete to know how much stress is too much stress and what you can adapt to. So maybe Prof, I have a question to you. Like, how do you know when exercise and the rest of the stressors are going a little overboard?

How can you navigate your training? How do you know you're ready for the next session? Because the next session is always the most important session. But how do you know? Something happens. Dog gets sick. You're not sleeping well. Something happens in your life as an everyday athlete. How do you know how to navigate? What should I do today?

Paul (19:26.218)


Paul (19:34.654)

Thanks for watching.

Paul (19:36.611)

Mm-hmm. Well, it's an awesome question. It's the million dollar question. I think at the end of the day, the best we have is we have a plan and we know the general pieces of the puzzle that would be ideal in a perfect world if I was feeling good. And we can look at that plan moving forward.

And at the end of the day, I'm a big believer in going with that plan until you can't, I guess. So go with that plan and then begin to develop... You have to develop this history of wisdom in yourself to know when it's just not happening. But I did this... I did a...

a coaching prof newsletter the other day, and we talked about the priming effect, right? I always believe, go out there and try the first set of intervals if you can. And if you can't feel good after your first set of intervals, then the priming effect almost isn't even really working for you. It's probably time to flag the session. It's just not the right session. And break into a recovery session, a walk.

Paul (20:29.342)


Paul (20:54.299)

or go have a nap, whatever it might be, whatever you need to go and feel better again, to reset and prepare for the next session. Again, to your point, the next session is the most important session. So we always preserve that because you might be getting sick, you might be getting injured. You really need to develop those good listening skills in your body.

So I don't have the perfect answer, I'm afraid for you, Marjaana, because context always rules over content, as we know. And yeah, but it's working on, we're all a work in progress in terms of our ability to listen to the context, to listen to what's going on in us right now, in this moment.

Marjaana Rakai (21:41.934)

So do you have like HRV guideline where, like if somebody has taken their HRV measurements same time every morning for a while so that their data is reliable? And then one day an athlete gets a red flag from HRV measurement? Then what?

Paul (24:44.683)

Yeah. Yeah, well, I mean, Marjaana, your question is perfectly timed, because I'm hot into HRV at the moment. We're thinking about how we actually bring this into Athletica right now. And at the same time, I've been called up and shoulder tapped to give a keynote lecture at the Endurance Exchange Conference.

in Charlotte, North Carolina to speak on this. So I've, yeah, so I guess the, the answer would be, you know, you don't wanna look at a single day usually, a single day with a bad HRV marker is probably not, you don't wanna have a knee-jerk reaction to that. But it's something to keep in mind. Now, when you start getting, you know, two or three or four consecutive

lower heart rate variability markers relative to baseline, usually we talk seven day rolling averages, then it's time and especially if it starts aligning with your feel. So if it's aligning with you not feeling that, that sharp, if you're feeling flat, if you're feeling sick, well, there's probably something there, right? Like it's all linked back to your central nervous system, to your immune system.

And so yeah, just for those, I think most of us are now aware of heart rate variability. We're looking at variations, beat to beat variations. So you think of might as well just talk about it very briefly, but you know, your heart rate, we often think about our heart rate when we take our pulse that it's like a like a clock that it goes tick tock tick tock, and it's always the same.

Well, that's certainly not. It's quite variable in terms of that beat to beat variation. It's all over the map. The more all over the map it is, generally the better. That's usually when you're in this big parasympathetic mode. That's your rest and digest. That's your relaxation mode. That's when you're sleeping. You want lots of variation. Conversely, on the other end, when we are frightened, when we are scared,

Paul (27:02.175)

sympathetic, when we're exercising, that's the sympathetic nervous system, fight or flight. And that one sounds a lot more like a clock. So we're always swinging back and forth between the balancing of these, relates entirely to the theme of this podcast with the hands, so they model. So if you are heavily stressed, you will have a very low heart rate variability. And when you are in the adapting,

mode, you have high heart rate variability, lots of variation. And when we actually, when we look at elite performers in their heart rate variability profile, it goes higher and higher and higher as they continue to build with larger training loads and larger training volumes. And we see them adapting with these high heart rate variability markers.

So I don't know if I answered the question there, Marjaana, I was kinda, I kinda talked around some different things, but it's, yeah, there's, it's not a black and white approach. And heart rate variability is not necessarily the be all end all. Remember, it's one tool in the toolbox of many that we can use to assess our stress.

Marjaana Rakai (28:21.678)

I think that's a great answer, which I knew that long time ago, because I started measuring HRV like back in 2017. So I had years of measurements, but I kept ignoring the yellows and reds. So I would take the measurements.

Paul (28:27.931)


Marjaana Rakai (28:51.45)

the number, the index number was getting lower and lower. And I'm like, huh. But then I looked at my training program like, nah, I'm still going for it. So I really needed the mindset shift there as well to like, okay, so this is a warning sign. Maybe I need to actually pay attention to it.

And it's quite remarkable how you can tell how much stress you have in your life. Like this summer when we did the big Dubai to US move and the air pollution, it was like heading down and it was all over the place, reds, yellows. It was a rainbow. But then, yeah, it wasn't pretty.

Paul (29:38.603)

I remember it well, Marjaana. It was not pretty.

Marjaana Rakai (29:44.77)

But then when we spent summer in Canada, beautiful nature, mountains, it started to stabilize itself and go higher. Like the index number came back to like 8.9, 9.3, and it stayed there instead of like going the roller coaster that it was. So yeah, I think from my own training, I don't look one day too much.

But I do look at like a few days average, and then I like check with myself, okay, like how am I feeling? Am I sleeping well? Maybe I'm getting sick, things like that. But I find like zone two session is always a good one. And like if you have a little bit of a crocky feeling in the morning, if you do an hour of zone two, you usually feel a lot better after than before. And that's...

could find that it was a good choice.

Paul (30:47.067)

Yeah, and I also know just to zone to stuff as well, Marjaana. Zone two for me, when I schedule a zone to ride in my afternoon, it's just almost without fail, I will have a solid night of sleep. For whatever reason that just sets me right up. And yeah, it's the it's the best thing for me in terms of

Paul (31:07.316)



Paul (31:14.499)

terms of giving me a really, really good sleep. And again, remember last episode we spoke about sleep and just its key role in creating health for the everyday athlete. And so yeah, so zone two in the evening for me is my secret formula there as well. The other thing I wanted to mention too is like from a practical standpoint, we're talking about heart rate variability. For those that don't know,

Paul (31:32.786)


Paul (31:40.231)

There's so many tools on the market now and you've probably come across them. Like think of your Oura ring. Many of us have heard of that, right? So the Oura ring, that's what it's actually measuring. It's measuring overnight heart rate variability. The Whoop strap, many of us have heard of that. It's another means of just wearing this strap and you can constantly monitor your HRV. There's so many apps that are out there as well. HRV4Training. You can actually measure it using like the phone lens.

and light camera to actually measure the pulse that's in your finger. So that's Mark Altini's beautiful invention. Absolutely. There's the Elite HRV, there's iAthlete. There's so many that are out there now. This is really, it's come to the fore and many, many are recognizing the benefits of monitoring your heart rate variability, which is why we are working on implementing a solution for that into Athletica.

Paul (32:38.102)

So we need stress. We need stress, enough stress to adapt our bodies to adapt to the training so we get stronger. Is there a, and we've definitely seen there's a...

Paul (32:52.882)

limit for how much stress we can our bodies can take without having too much of a response? Is there a place where there's too little of stress to create some kind of adaptation?

Paul (33:09.047)

Absolutely, for sure. I think that's unfortunately the, probably more the majority. Well, I should be careful in choosing my words here, but it's from the exercise context, I think probably the majority of our population is...

handcuffed and crippled into achieving the amount of physical activity that they would ideally like to attain. But that's probably because too many of the other stressors that we've been speaking on are already too high. And again, it's a little bit of a, I don't know, what is it? It's a chicken and egg sort of thing. It's like, how do you get?

You know, I want, I know I want the L2 exercise stress because I know it's gonna make me feel better, but I can't, I just can't even get off this couch. I'm so exhausted at the end of the day, right? So I don't know, you know, it's, this is probably where it comes back to the importance of a coach, Paul and Marjaana. This is where we're, you know, probably we need some help with motivation to, to put some, you know, put some principles into play and, and

just start, you need to start somewhere. But yeah, like you can definitely get too little of a stress, but it often can go with sort of too much stress of the other ones that we don't want.

Paul (34:39.362)

So what is this general adaptation syndrome and the idea of stress? What does that mean for everyday athletes training on a day-to-day basis? Marjaana, why don't you start with that.

Marjaana Rakai (34:54.111)


Yeah, I think what every day athlete needs to understand is that consistency is the key to reaching your goals and then navigating your life stress so that it allows you to do those training sessions. And as we spoke,

in the last episode, scheduling it in is a key to make those, um, make those sessions happen. So schedule in your, your training so that you get that stress, uh, training stress, and then try your best to prioritize good sleep. Um, and, uh, drinking alcohol is one of the key points that can ruin your good sleep.

So yeah, avoiding alcohol because it can...

Paul (35:52.03)


Marjaana Rakai (35:59.222)

you know, detour your recovery. So.

Paul (36:02.183)

Do you know the best time to drink alcohol, Marjaana? No. 10 AM, yeah.

Paul (36:07.502)

In the morning? Yeah. What time is it?

Marjaana Rakai (36:10.945)

Okay, that's early.

Paul (36:12.399)

Because it's out of your system by the time you hit your sleep. That's it. Again, that's from Matt Walker in Why We Sleep. Like that's, yeah, but studies have actually shown that. So if you want to drink your alcohol at 10 a.m. is the time, and it's gone by sleep time.

Marjaana Rakai (36:20.767)


Marjaana Rakai (36:26.062)

I like that. That's why I said 3pm, because sometimes like 3pm would be awesome. Glass of wine and chill.

Paul (36:34.762)


Marjaana Rakai (36:36.078)

But yeah, that was 10am, I don't know, that's pretty early.

Paul (36:39.422)


Paul (36:39.5)

I know, I know, I know.

Marjaana Rakai (36:41.614)

But yeah, anyway, so going back to the general adaptation syndrome for everyday athlete. If you struggle to schedule your training sessions, start with 15 minutes. If you're feeling trash, just the hardest thing is to show up. I think 15 minutes, get out the door and most of the time you go longer than 15 minutes because it takes 15-20 minutes to start feeling good.

Um, and I think Paul, you can talk to physiology of that. Like it takes body time to start pumping up blood everywhere and then releasing their, um, feeling good hormones. But if you do 15 minutes and then turn back, at least you've got outside, got some fresh air, maybe you're lucky. You live somewhere where there's sunshine. You get the vitamin D. Um.

And then prioritize your sleep. Like guard your sleep with all you have and you're good to go next day again. That's my take.

Paul (37:52.375)

Yeah, I think the only thing I just would add in kind of wrapping up Paul is like, why is all of this important in terms of the general adaptation syndrome? Well, it's to develop resilience and the exercise it makes you stronger, right? So it builds your body, your confidence, your mind, and your energy. You have better energy throughout the day if this is part of it.

So you will be, yeah, you'll just be a more resilient human being for all the other things that you need to tackle in your life when you're dealing with family and friends and stressors. If you have an exercise component, you're just going to be a more energetic, energized, resilient person in your life. So that's why you are trying to get this

optimal dose of exercise at the end of the day.

Marjaana Rakai (38:54.166)

and the best ideas you'll always have during your training sessions.

Paul (39:00.135)

Totally, totally. Yeah, 100%.

Paul (39:06.066)

So our takeaways this week are consistency in training builds resiliency. That's the key is that if you're consistent, you will build the strength and resiliency to be able to be a healthier person. Number two is that stress is necessary. You need to manage the stress. A lot of stress is not good, but the optimal amount of stress is something that you can manage.

And number three, that rest and recovery is when the adaptations happen. That's all for this week. Thanks for listening and join us next week when we talk about coincidentally, how we can help monitor our recovery time and how the most important recovery is sleep. For Marjaana Rakai, Dr. Paul Laurson, I'm Paul Warlowski and this has been the Athlete's Compass.

podcast. See you.

Marjaana Rakai (40:05.602)

See you later.

Paul (40:08.911)


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