“I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t Quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’”
Supercompensation is a response to a given training stimulus, where we see an elevation in the athlete’s performance following the recovery period, which immediately follows the stimulus.
Our base level is called homeostasis; this is when our body is in balance at a cellular level. Our blood ph levels, blood oxygen saturation, when hormones are regulated. When we train we are actually exposing our bodies to damage; this is why our performance declines during and immediately post training. But with properly executed recovery, we gradually get back to homeostasis and, in a well thought out training program, supercompensation. A simple concept, but hard to nail down in reality, because, as human beings, our physiological state is always in flux. This is a very micro viewpoint of one training session. Imagine what the graph would look like over an entire years worth of training or even a lifetime.
The idea is that supercompensation occurs enough to see gradual improvements over time. An ideal training program will take athletes through purposeful training cycles to illicit compounding supercompensation responses and the effect will have a graph that resembles the housing market.
Easier Said Than Done
One of the best things that a human being does is adapt to its environment and exposed stimuli. We will eventually adapt to supercompensation, making it more difficult over time to experience in the same ways. Training cycles are a necessity at this point for an athlete to see any sort of physical improvement response to their training. That said, on a macro program, we must account for a deficit and supercompensation over time. Your progression as an athlete is rarely linear. If we zoom out and look at a lifetime of a very successful athlete, their progression charts all over the place, like the housing market – up and down with an average line of progression, not decline. But an athlete’s progression will never be in a uniform straight line.
So one of the best things about human beings is adaptation, but it’s one of our biggest complexities as well.
The Theory of Supercompensation
We’ve discussed the science behind physical supercompensation, but what about the theory of mental supercompensation. Can we become mentally stronger through supercompensation in similar ways that we become physically stronger? When we expose ourselves to adversity and failures, our realities are immediately worse off, but we can view this as mental strength training for the future. This is no simple concept, we cannot use this theory to excuse our failures, we need to use it to learn about our failures and pose the greatest question we can ask: “Why?”