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Saturday, November 24, 2012

At the prodding of BLITZEN40, I've decided to talk a bit about homeostasis. As it relates to biology, it is the process of keeping things stable. A simple way to look at it is what your body currently considers "normal". Some things are non-negotiable such as body temperature or blood pH. There can be slight adaptations for body temperature, for example, have you ever noticed that 65 degrees in autumn feels cooler than 65 degrees in the spring? The body has adapted slightly to colder temperatures.

The body is constantly working to be more efficient. As a result, the boundaries of homeostasis constantly shrink when not perturbed. The old saying "if you don't use it, ya lose it" is a good example of that. Stop training and watch those boundaries shrink as the body gets "used to" sitting.

Many runners can probably remember a day when a run/walk interval made them want to double over. Today, many here are completing several miles races at a fairly constant pace. The beginning of homeostatic disruption occurred when you pushed the envelope and went from walking to running. The boundaries continue to be stretched until physiological limits are hit. You cannot get infinitely faster or stronger, but most of us have not reached anywhere close to our genetic potentials.

Disruption is easy at first. It's typically called "beginner's gains" or "newb gains" for short. The closer you are to couch potato, the easier it is to disrupt homeostasis. The closer you get to your genetic potential, the harder it becomes to disrupt homeostasis.

Always train with a purpose. For general strength and conditioning, this purpose should be the disruption of homeostasis. If you're a runner or endurance athlete, the disruption might occur to the musculature over time. "Getting your miles in" as they say. Hill sprints are perturbing the cardiovascular system. Strength training should be progressively overloading your muscles with either more weight, more repetitions or both. As you progress beyond average and closer to genetic potential, perturbation becomes impossible during a single session and must be planned out over several sessions.

Doing the same thing over and over again does not disrupt homeostasis and does not promote progress. At best, you maintain your current level (i.e. you've wasted your time). Measuring fitness in minutes to me is largely foolish. I can walk around in circles for days and accomplish nothing (but I sure did rack up a lot of fitness minutes), or I can squat hundreds of pounds for 30 seconds and have my ass handed to me. Whatever accomplishes disruption for you should be the goal, not necessarily minutes.

Anyway, that's my crack at the subject. Feel free to weigh in with your take, corrections, enhancements. As always pointless emoticon comments will be shot on sight. Thanks again to BLITZEN40 for the kick in the butt. You disrupted my blog's homeostasis which had clearly gone into hibernation.
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    Interesting blog. There's one other thing, a side issue - the genetic potential changes with time no matter what you do. If you look at a graph of the fastest finishers of the Boston Marathon, the fastest runners between 20 and 30 years old were finishing just over two hours - maybe 2:10 to 2:20. By the age of 70 they are over three hours, and by 80 they're around four hours. There are no finishers over 80 for the one graph I have. I assume that the runners were all prepared for the race, and that there are other events where the older person can be competitive with the younger ones, but there is some loss of performance just because you wear out. The trick is to keep it to a minimum by trying to stay close to the genetic potential you have at a given age. According to Dr. Oz, (and a bunch of others) you can be younger or older that your calendar age, but that's just another way of saying what you pointed out.
    1972 days ago

    Comment edited on: 11/24/2012 6:19:22 PM
    Interesting stuff. I like what you did here in relating homeostasis to physical fitness. I was thinking about it in terms of weight gain and loss and as it was explained to me, homeostasis involved a living organism's internal workings to achieve an "ideal" balance so that the body can function at it's most efficient. And on some levels, such as body temperature and heart rate, that makes sense. But as related to physical fitness and ideal weight my thought is that homeostasis does not work as it should, or wouldn't we all naturally only eat the correct amount of healthy food we need to be at our ideal weight and turn away everything else? And wouldn't we all be driven by our homeostasis to exercise appropriately so we all have the ideal muscle size, tone and cardiovascular health that is optimal for each of us individually? I was under the impression that homeostasis was there to help us achieve our optimal, ideal balance (as it does in regulation of body temperature), but as it relates to ideal fitness and ideal weight, I think you have it right. Rather than it helping, you actually have to fight it to get to that ideal balance. And once you get there, it does nothing to help you stay there. You have to fight to maintain or you'll go right back to being that couch potato you mentioned. No help from our homies!
    Eating is more controlled by the lateral and ventromedial hypothalamus I think. No homeostasis involvement.
    1972 days ago
    I would've been disappointed if I didn't get an emoticon outta you. It's a fine balance between disruption and recovery. The answer isn't always to increase frequency, it's to find a balance between frequency and recovery. Admittedly, I'm still working on this. But the good news is, the more I keep at it, the better I get. This is why having a program is crucial as you get further away from couch potato and closer to genetic potential. Any ol' thing isn't going to work any more.
    1972 days ago
    Sorry, couldn't resist the figured you could use some target practice.

    Since completing my first half 2 weeks ago, I've only run 3 times. A very slow 4 miles the Tuesday after. The following Tuesday went for 8 miles but was toast after 6 and ended up walking a bit then slow jogging the rest. That got me to thinking that I've only been doing this for about 7 months now with really only about 3 months of runs over 8 miles once a week (Sep 1st 9 miles). Some people have been running these distances for years. I think laying off a week has more of a negative effect on me than them because of that. But then again, during our training, my improvements were greater than their's. Not a bad trade off I guess.

    Today, went out with a runner friend and we did 9 miles together. Ended up keeping up very well and even pushing him a bit but I definitely didn't feel as good doing it as I did before I reduced my running frequency.
    1972 days ago
    1972 days ago
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