Training for the marathon? It’s a matter of tolerance

Exercise is similar to beer. It may seem like a strange concept to grasp, but hear me out.

There are obvious parallels such as the euphoria you can experience, and even the after effects of

a big session. But probably the most pertinent to us is the similarity in how we can develop a tolerance to beer and exercise.

If you’ve never had any beer previously, you can rock up to a bar and have one drink and you’d

probably get drunk pretty quickly. You might even wake up the next morning and say you’ll never drink again, such will be the effect.

But after a bit of contemplation you maybe think to yourself, “If I practice this enough, maybe I can get good at it”.

So, you start to drink a little more on a weekend, maybe 2 or 3 on a Friday or Saturday night, and you still might get drunk by the end of the night but it takes a few more to get you there. You probably don’t have as much of a hangover, and you can string multiple drinking sessions together with less effect.

You’ve improved your tolerance to beer.

Now if you do take another hiatus from beer and stop drinking, your beer tolerance will reduce. It could get to the point where if you then take up drinking again following a period of no beer, you’ll probably get drunk very quickly.It’s the same principle with exercise.

If you haven’t trained for a while, the first session is the hardest session you’ll ever experience. Your muscles and joints will pull up sore, for days and days on end. But as you gradually train more, you build your exercise load and you might even feel a little fitter, or get a little faster. You’ll be able to have bigger sessions, start to recover better and can back it up by building multiple sessions into a routine by doing it over and over again.

You’ve improved your tolerance to exercise.

Same scenario, if you take a break from exercising which is sometimes needed when you’re injured, your tolerance will reduce. You decondition and your tolerance to exercise reduces to the point where once we return to activity we probably can’t go as fast or do as much before having to stop. 

This analogy comes from Dr Tim Gabbett, a guru on training and load management. It might not be the most appropriate analogy to use given one is considered good for our health, and the other rather detrimental, but hopefully it resonates with you (whether you enjoy a drink or not).

In the clinic we use this analogy and similar principles in discussing a number of scenarios. Returning to running following injury, ceasing the use of a moon boot, commencing the use of orthotics, wearing in a new pair of shoes or commencing an exercise program. Be mindful that your tolerance to a new or unfamiliar stimulus is quite low, and too much too soon could set you back in your progress.

Hopefully this is a timely analogy to discover as two of Melbourne great fun runs are nearing. The Run Melbourne, half marathon is coming up on 28th of July, 8 weeks away. Further afield, the Melbourne Marathon is on Sunday the 13th of October and just 19 weeks away.

If you’re any chance of completing either distance it’s a good time to consider building your tolerance (of running, not beer).

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