Overtraining - Walking the fine line

Hello Triathletes, this blog will look at overtraining, do you know how much you are actually doing and assessment method to identify overtraining.

Having the right dose of training to maximize gains, prevent overtraining and overuse injuries is key and every athletes and coaches’ goal. On paper this seems easy, but as we are dealing with complex creatures (humans) this is not always the case.

The aim of the training process is to ensure that the athlete peaks at the right time. To ensure this happens it is vital that the dose- response relationship is in check. The dose- response relationship is understanding and knowing how a prescribed training session(s) will produce a specific physiological response. Once this is known then an appropriate plan can be created to specifically targeted to the athlete’s capacity.

Opens Training Peaks- Coach has scheduled a rest day. “ I am feeling great, I want to hit a session, these rest days really bum me out. I think we can all resonate with this, myself included. The common love training days and utter despair when it comes to rest days is not uncommon. We think that the more we do the better we will become, and where yes the principle of progressive overload would back this, recovery protocols and time for the body and mind should be programmed in conjunction. One without the other will not achieve the results desired.

What happens when we train?

Training sessions will be designed with a particular stimulus and session objective in mind. Training creates stress in the body. When the body is in a stressed state the body is not in homeostasis, it is out of balance. It is when the body moves back toward this state of homeostasis that the body will adapt.

By adapting the body will ensure that the same amount of stress will not disrupt the body again to the same effect. This is called supercompensation. Supercompensation can only occur when there is an adequate recovery period after a training session. The second dose of training should be positioned in an appropriate place for optimal benefits. If it comes too soon then this will result in moving further away from homeostasis, unable to recover properly, resulting in maladaptation and reduced performance.

On the flip side if no further or insufficient stressors added no performance increases will be gained.

That all sounds simple, keep stressing the body and it will get better, but in fact it is extremely complex, there are physiological factors as well as psychophysical factors to consider which makes it difficult to identify the exact load performance response. It is not always about the duration and intensity to consider.

Tell tales signs when to pull back:

There are a few common signs and symptoms that can identify if you are under recovering/ burning out.

1- Mood changes such as feeling depressed.

2- Cognitive Symptoms- unable to make clear decisions, attention may be lower than normal, unable to focus.

3- Physical Symptoms- feeling fatigued, tired, regularly ill, reduced power even when you “feel” you are working hard.

4- Motivational symptoms – reduced enthusiasm to do what’s needed.

Assessment Methods

Looking at some of the symptoms above we all have felt them at some time. It is crucial to monitor such changes and keep track of when disruptions occur. It can shed light into how well your training and recovery are going. Without knowing such things, you run the risk of overtraining and not reaching your full potential and or exposing yourself to overuse injuries.

POMs or BRUM questionnaires are psychometric tools that can assist in determining mood, tension, depression, anger, fatigue and confusion. They can assist in identifying when you are burnt out or edging towards burn out. By answering based on a past weeks performance / training and using the results as a tracking method, it can help to identify patterns or trends and allow you and you coach to make necessary changes. These methods should not be solely used as a measure but in conjunction with other tests such as performance tests and physiological markers.

HRV – Heart rate Variability- this is a very popular topic and is a means of assessing readiness to perform. In the market today, there are a vast number of applications and trackers that can give a personalized insight into how well an athlete is recovering based on HRV and a series of questions.

HRV is the normal variation in beat to beat intervals. Heart rate is governed by the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and through the action of the sympathetic (SNS) and parasympathetic (PNS) nervous system that regulate the fight or flight response and the rest and digest response respectively. If for example the SNS is dominant at rest this may be an indicator of overreaching/ training whereas a dominant PNS at rest may show good adaption and a readiness to continue training. There is still a vast amount of research needed in the area still.

This method should not be solely used as a measure but in conjunction with other tests such as performance tests and physiological markers.

Performance tests such as a Countermovement jump can assess fatigue in sport whereby the amount of power, velocity and displacement can assess fatigue. When compared with baseline readings lower results can identify a state of neuromuscular capacity. This method should not be solely used as a measure but in conjunction with other tests such as performance tests and physiological markers

To wrap it up. Recovery plays an integral in your development. If its programmed understand that it aids performance and will ultimately help you in the long term goal.

I hope you enjoyed this blog and until next time

Stay Healthy


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