22 February 2010
As the days are starting to get longer, now is a great time to be thinkingabout your upcoming season. Keep in mind this advice from Joe Friel on thedangers of over-training!
Throughout most of the training year the workload should be just greatenough to produce stress marked by fatigue and adaptation, but not so highthat overtraining results. The level at which overtraining occurs is the
“overtraining threshold.” Real
ize, however, that the overtraining threshold isa moving target. What causes overtraining when fitness is low is easilytolerated when fitness is high. For experienced athletes there actually comes a time when theovertraining threshold is exceeded in order to produce the highest levels of fitness.As physiological adaptation occurs with improving fitness, the overtraining threshold rises. Sothe workload must rise along with it if fitness improvement is to continue. Most athletesrecognize this phenomenon and allow for it by increasing the number of intervals within aworkout, or by extending the length of a workout, or by doing repeats at a greater speed. The
problem is that most athletes try to rush the process. But it’s simply not possible to speed up t
hechanges that happen at the cellular level ¾ short of using drugs. The human body adapts tochanges in workload slowly and steadily. Each individual athlete has his or her own unique rateof adaptation. The trick is to discover what yours is and then to abide by it when determiningtraining workloads.
How can the overtraining threshold be identified? It’s tough to nail down, in part, because it’s
always changing, but also because there are no universal and absolute standards. For example, I
can’t say what
a certain resting heart rate means for your level of overtraining. That must be
determined individually. I’ve found, however, that there are several categories of markers that
may predict when you are exceeding your overtraining threshold. They are:· Fat
igue that doesn’t go away with 48 hours of active recovery. Your legs feel tired or there isgeneral body weariness that lingers even after you’ve taken it very easy for two days.
· A loss of control over emotions
evidence of anger, feeling sorry for yourself, moodiness,
depression, grumpiness. In short, you’re hard to live with. Your spouse or roommate may be the
first to recognize this.
· Performance declines. For example, you’re slower at the same heart rate, or for any given
speed, heart rate is high. (Note that a high or low exercise heart rate alone does not indicateovertraining.)· Self-
confidence declines. This may be the best marker, but it’s hard to assess. One way to do it
may be found in trying to visualize accomplishing a specific race goal. If it seems out of reachand farfetched, self-confidence may be low.