Why do we train? Well, that’s obvious, we train to get better. But what happens when your training schedule starts to do the opposite- instead of getting stronger, fitter, faster and more powerful, your performance starts to slide backwards? Welcome to the world of overtraining or underperformance.
Coaches will be well versed on the strategies for systematically progressing an athlete for competition so that they reach their peak on the day. Through the use of progressive overload and specificity in training along with periodisation and recovery, an athlete can be lead through serious training sessions and come out the other side unscathed, and hopefully as number one. However there is a fine line between progressive overload and just plain old over load, with the latter potentially putting months of hard work to waste.
Over training is the term used to describe when an individual’s increased training schedule is not supported by adequate rest periods or adequate recovery, resulting in a variety of symptoms ranging from poor performance, lack of performance improvements, decreased immune function, to low mood, fatigue, sleep disruption and increased injury. Not a pretty picture and this is not just for elite athletes. It is not uncommon for you garden variety athlete to hit the over training/under performing threshold and not have a coach to help them identify the signs or guide them out of it.
So how do you take your training to the next level and get the results you need to win, without overreaching ? Here are the main points to consider when training for and event:
Plan your peak. Whether you are planning to run a half marathon or enter into your first triathlon, map out your training in advance, and be sure to factor in regular rest days and tapering of training coming into the event
As you increase training load, be sure to make sure you are eating well and sleeping enough. Often we can take over even the most hectic training schedule until we lose sleep or we aren’t fuelling our body enough to be able to recover properly.
Factor in a de-load week every 3-4 weeks. You are going to be giving your body the best chance at adapting and super-compensating if you give it a week of lighter training sessions within your grand scheme as you ramp up to competition. Chances are the next week you will see major improvements in your performance and will be ready to step up to the next level.
Life stressors count towards the effect of over training. A heavy training load on top of a busy work or family life is going to make life hard. You are better off taking a day or 2 off to get on top of things at home or in the office than trying to hang in and keep pushing on through.
Try active recovery. Not all recovery has to be straight rest. Active recovery could be a light technical session, a complementary activity at low intensity or even a yoga session to stretch out.
Listen to your body. Niggling pains are normally the step before full blown injury. By listening to your body you can get a heads up before an injury occurs and take the measures to prevent it before it happens. Having your physio on speed dial will help!
The best thing you can do as an amateur athlete is know the signs that you are over training, which as mentioned before encompass both physical as well as emotional symptoms. It can be a head game; with many people often trying to push through what they think is a plateau, only to find themselves at greater risk of and illness or injury which could put them on the bench for a lot longer than a few days of training. Even the world’s best athletes take time to listen to their body and rest, so keep calm and train hard, then rest harder.