Overtrained

As a triathlete, I have a hard time NOT training. As elite athletes, we feel like we need to push ourselves harder and harder to get faster and stronger. Unfortunately, this is how we end up getting injured. As a coach I have to make sure I do not allow or encourage my athletes to overtrain.

Avoiding overtraining is easier said than done. For the type “A”, hard-core athlete, there are a few key things to do and know to keep healthy all year long.

First follow a plan written by a reputable coach that understands your goals, schedule and lifestyle. Have an open communication policy and be honest with your coach. If you know you are the type of person that does too much and is injury prone, tell your coach you need recovery days. Research has shown that the peak muscle power of swimmers was at its lowest when they trained the most (Costill 1985; Costill et al. 1985). I normally give my athletes a recovery week every third week during a building phase.

Second, listen to your body and know the signs of overtraining. Ask yourself these questions: Does your normal comfortable pace leave you breathless? Do your legs feel heavy for far longer than usual after a hard workout or race? Do you find it especially hard to climb steps? Do you dread the thought of training? These are clear signs of overtraining and you should cut back immediately. Another way to determine if you should cut back or take a recovery week is by monitoring your heart rate. Knowing what your normal resting heart rate and heart rate zones is important for every day training. When you see your resting heart rate spike for several mornings in a row, it is time to take a break.

Third, make sure you recover properly after a big race. This is one of the hardest things to do as an athlete because you’re so used to pushing yourself to the max. One thing I always tell my athletes who have been competing for years – your head can do it, but your body can’t. You may think you can run a race or go out for hard training a week or two after a big race, but your body needs to recover properly. Muscle biopsies done of elite athletes after running a marathon found muscle cell damage present 7 days later (Noakes 2003). Sometimes we get excited after a race and want to go right back out and start training for the next big race. A lot of athletes want to pick up where they left off in training. There is a 10% rule that says you should not do more than 10% of the week before. After a race, you should take as many days off from running as miles you ran (26 miles=26 days). How many people actually follow those rules?

Finally listen to your body. You should know your body well enough to know if something is not right. When there is just a little discomfort, you can just reduce the training load and recover. When there is discomfort walking or squatting, you may need to reduce training for up to 2 weeks. When there is severe pain, it is time to see a doctor and reevaluate your goals.

Being injured is no fun at all, I know! Even as a coach, it is hard for me to follow these rules. However, now I embrace my off days and recovery weeks. Just remember, you will lose more than you will gain by going on that “extra” unplanned run!

As a triathlete, I have a hard time NOT training. As elite athletes, we feel like we need to push ourselves harder and harder to get faster and stronger. Unfortunately, this is how we end up getting injured. As a coach I have to make sure I do not allow or encourage my athletes to overtrain.

Avoiding overtraining is easier said than done. For the type “A”, hard-core athlete, there are a few key things to do and know to keep healthy all year long.

First follow a plan written by a reputable coach that understands your goals, schedule and lifestyle. Have an open communication policy and be honest with your coach. If you know you are the type of person that does too much and is injury prone, tell your coach you need recovery days. Research has shown that the peak muscle power of swimmers was at its lowest when they trained the most (Costill 1985; Costill et al. 1985). I normally give my athletes a recovery week every third week during a building phase.

Second, listen to your body and know the signs of overtraining. Ask yourself these questions: Does your normal comfortable pace leave you breathless? Do your legs feel heavy for far longer than usual after a hard workout or race? Do you find it especially hard to climb steps? Do you dread the thought of training? These are clear signs of overtraining and you should cut back immediately. Another way to determine if you should cut back or take a recovery week is by monitoring your heart rate. Knowing what your normal resting heart rate and heart rate zones is important for every day training. When you see your resting heart rate spike for several mornings in a row, it is time to take a break.

Third, make sure you recover properly after a big race. This is one of the hardest things to do as an athlete because you’re so used to pushing yourself to the max. One thing I always tell my athletes who have been competing for years – your head can do it, but your body can’t. You may think you can run a race or go out for hard training a week or two after a big race, but your body needs to recover properly. Muscle biopsies done of elite athletes after running a marathon found muscle cell damage present 7 days later (Noakes 2003). Sometimes we get excited after a race and want to go right back out and start training for the next big race. A lot of athletes want to pick up where they left off in training. There is a 10% rule that says you should not do more than 10% of the week before. After a race, you should take as many days off from running as miles you ran (26 miles=26 days). How many people actually follow those rules?

Finally listen to your body. You should know your body well enough to know if something is not right. When there is just a little discomfort, you can just reduce the training load and recover. When there is discomfort walking or squatting, you may need to reduce training for up to 2 weeks. When there is severe pain, it is time to see a doctor and reevaluate your goals.

Being injured is no fun at all, I know! Even as a coach, it is hard for me to follow these rules. However, now I embrace my off days and recovery weeks. Just remember, you will lose more than you will gain by going on that “extra” unplanned run!

Joy Murphy
AFAA & Premier Certified Personal Trainer
Level 1 USA Triathlon Coach
Level 1 Track & Field Coach
TRX Certified

Sunny Runner

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