Guilty as charged… I am going to say that straight from the off. Over my triathlon career, I have wanted results and I have wanted results fast. Paired with the love for the sport and the love of training, it was easy to fall into the trap of over training. But for anyone experienced in the sport, you will know that hours and hours of training, does not necessary mean improvements or better results.
How to recognise if you are over training?
- Lack of motivation – If you have or are starting to lose the love of the sport or training, then this is a clear sign you are training too much.
- Not hitting your numbers – If you are not able to hit your normal heart rate, power numbers or running pace, this is your body telling you, you are working too hard.
- Overuse injuries – It’s normal to have DOMs the day or two after a big session but if you are feeling the same pain a week after, then you are have an issue. If it is affecting your technique that a good warm up can’t help with, then it is time to rest.
- Fatigued – There is a difference between feeling tired after training and feeling tired all day long. If you are doing everything else right, like your sleep, nutrition and hydration, and you are still tired then this should be alarm bells for you to dial back the training.
- Decreased immune system – Do you find yourself being ill more regularly? When you train your body to the point of exhaustion, you get a drop in your immune system because your body is struggling to make adaptations to your training, as-well as keeping it functioning as normal.
- High resting heart rate – An easy way to see if you’re rested or over training is to check if you have an overly high resting heart rate, especially first thing in the morning. If it is much higher than normal, you’re most likely fatigued and need a break.
So why do we overtrain? The first and simplest answer is purely the love for the sport. Like anything in the world, if you love it, you want to be around it as much as possible. Next would be impatience. You have a goal and you want to achieve it as quickly as possible, so the immediate solution would be to train as much and as hard as possible until you get there. This ultimately stems from a lack of knowledge of how to train. If you do know how to train or you have a coach, it would come down to a lack of discipline for not following your training plan. Maybe your friend wants you to go on an extra bike ride or two (they quickly add up). Or instead of doing a long easy bike ride, you decide to join a virtual race on Zwift where you try and go with every breakaway causing you to fall into a puddle of your own sweat afterwards. But it’s not all doom and gloom, if you think you’re over training, there is always a way to get you back on the right path. Simply put, you should keep training hard but also train SMART!!
How to avoid overtraining?
- Structured training – Get a coach, who has the experience and knowledge to create you a tailored training programme to account for your goals and lifestyle. They will be able to tell you when to go hard, when to take it easy and when you need to rest.
- Periodisation – It is important to know you can’t maintain the same volume of training week in week out. Periodisation prevents overtraining through decreasing your overall volume of training every 2/3 weeks (sometimes longer depending on the coach), before increasing your volume again e.g. Week 1 and 2 of training may have a total of 10 hours training, with week 3 reducing to 5 hours of training before increasing to 12 hours of training in week 4 and 5.
- Rest Days – Allow yourself to have a rest day. This can be a full rest if needed or active recovery in the form of a light swim or bike. But it is important to allow the body rest time to make adaptions to the training you’re doing.
- Transitional Periods – Take some time at the end of the season or after a race to take a break from your usual training schedule and mix things up. Work on your weaknesses. Do some cross training. Build your base. And enjoy your training!