Listen Up! Can You Hear What Your Body is Saying?

Have you ever wondered why certain training protocol might be extremely difficult for one athlete and leaving him wrecked for over a week, but to another athlete, it may be easy? Of course, it’s dependent on a huge number of factors from work capacity, energy systems, fundamental capability, fatigue tolerance and so on. How do you find out which athlete you are and, more importantly, which way you should train? For that, you’ve got to be able to train according to your body’s needs.

Listen closely

There’s some trouble with the whole “listen to your body” concept, if you ask me. I agree that it’s great in principle, but in application it often falls apart and athletes use it as an excuse to be lazy. “Listening” can be difficult to do, especially when the body speaks in whispers and we are hard of hearing.

For the past couple of years, the Reactive Training System research and development team has been working on a “megaphone” for the body so it’s easier for athletes to read its signals. The Reactive Training System as a whole is centered around the law of individual differences, but this megaphone takes it a giant step forward.

We call it TRAC, which stands for Training Recovery Assessment Computer. It is composed of a series of tests lasting about 10 minutes. These tests are performed first thing in the morning when you wake up and require only your home computer. TRAC software analyzes the tests and generates a report that indicates how much stress the body is under, the status of its central nervous system and the level of adaptive reserves.

What does this have to do with listening to your body? TRAC amplifies what your body is “saying” to a higher degree. And it also removes the subjectivity and consequently the laziness from your training. On the flip side, it will tell athletes clearly when they are overtraining or when their CNS is spent. It even provides recommendations on how to modify training based on TRAC scores.

Building an efficient machine

During some TRAC software trials, it became apparent that people have varying skill levels when it comes to subjectively listening to their bodies. This much you would probably guess. But what surprised us was that high-level powerlifters aren’t necessarily good at knowing how their bodies respond to the training.

In my training, the TRAC system allowed me to train more efficiently. While it wasn’t absolutely required to improve, when I did use it and followed its suggested protocol, I improved more. This sped up my gains and improved my recovery. It also taught me to keep my GPP training within appropriate limits. This made sure I got better, but didn’t drain myself for main training sessions.

Pitching to the choir

If you think this is a sales pitch for TRAC, you’re not totally wrong. But consider that the tool was initially developed for my team and me to be the primary users. We developed it because it was something we wanted to use. There are other products out there that can perform similar functions, so it’s not like we have the market cornered on this technology. However, we have a surprisingly accurate and inexpensive means to assess the recovery of our bodies — one that greatly enhanced our training productivity. We want to share it with the world.

Some nuts and bolts

TRAC works like this: You perform a few short tests when you first wake up in the morning: the orthostatic, reaction time and tap tests.

The orthostatic test measures differences in your heart rate due to changes in posture. You start the test lying on the floor and stand up after the “resting” portion. Heart rates are taken at various points during the test and entered into the computer.

Next is the reaction time test. Reaction time is determined based on a five-trial reaction time test.

Then the tap test measures how many times you can tap the spacebar in 10 seconds. Some of you may be familiar with a low-tech version of the tap test, but it’s important to note that we believe there is more to it than just how many taps you get. The variance in tap intervals and the number of pauses in tapping are also important to the overall picture.

Data from reaction time tests and tap tests are automatically entered into the data entry page. Then the software on the website “gets to know” you and makes a determination based on your results instead of a static database.

As a whole, the battery of tests takes about 10 minutes to perform and requires no special equipment other than a computer and Internet access.

Listen up

If you are the type of person who trains to get in better shape, you probably don’t need TRAC. But if you are a competitive athlete, especially if you’re interested in pushing your limits, inefficiencies like technique flaws and nutritional habits have to be tuned. TRAC is a tool you can use to make sure that you don’t have wasted potential. It’s a high quality test to help you stay on task and avoid overtraining — and it’s based on physiological inputs, not speculation.

If you’d like to learn more about TRAC, please visit the Team RTS section of our website at www.ReactiveTrainingSystems.com.

Mike Tuchscherer owns Reactive Training Systems, a company dedicated to individualized physical training. The goal of RTS is to help athletes become a dominant force in their sports. Learn more by visiting www.ReactiveTrainingSystems.com. Mike is an accomplished powerlifter. He has more than 12 years of experience training and researching the best training methods in the world. He has competed in raw and single-ply competitions. He won the Gold medal representing the USA at the 2009 World Games, becoming the first American male to ever win this distinction. His best lifts in IPF competition are a 903-lb. squat, a 644-lb. bench press, an 826-lb. deadlift and a 2,342 lb. total in the 275-lb. weight class. ~Reprinted with permission from Power magazine, August 2010.