By definition, over training is a physical, behavioral, and emotional condition that occurs when the volume and intensity of an individual’s exercise exceeds their recovery capacity. When people commit themselves to a long distance race, be it a marathon or an Ironman, it can be easy to over-look or rather ignore symptoms of over training.

For many athletes there can be a mind-set that resting too much means you will somehow lose all the hard work you have put in. Of course, this is not true. In fact the exact opposite is true as rest is your friend, and giving your body time to recover and re-build is often the best possible thing you can do.

No matter how fit you think you are, or how tough and durable you think you are, there is a breaking point and often this is a point of diminishing returns. Generally speaking, signs of over training can include but are not limited to:

  • rest-is-mandatory-training-tips-by-kristenRestless/sleepless nights
  • Achy limbs
  • Moodiness
  • For women, your menstrual cycle stops or is disrupted
  • Reoccurring bouts of illness and/or injury
  • Lack of motivation and/or focus
  • Elevated resting heart rate
  • Sore muscles, even during easy sessions
  • Even after you warm up you feel like crap.
  • You feel like you’re pushing hard but you’re barely hitting your targets responding (i.e. you can’t elevate your HR or you can’t nail power outputs, split times, that you’d normally do.)
  • Your rest HR is higher then normal (by 5bpm or more)

If you answered ‘Yes’ to many of the above “symptoms” you may be over trained. Rather than trying to train through all of this and hope things will get better, or even worse, push harder and hope that doing so will make you feel better, listen to your body. It makes sense when you think about it this way: You can’t train a sick and tired body and your body has many ways of revolting to drive the message home. Instead you need to slow down, get some much-needed recovery, wait for the above symptoms to resolve and only then resume. Make rest and recovery just as important a component as everything else you are doing and they should be BUILT into your training schedule. Seriously, I cannot stress this enough – Rest and recovery are just as important to your sport as your sport.

So how do you know when your body is ready to get back out there? And how do you prevent this from happening again? Here are some tips on how to assess when you are ready to resume and how to avoid this in the future:

  • Let your body be your guide. Your body is a lot smarter than you think, and it is VERY good at letting you know when it needs rest, so listen to it!
  • Chart your morning heart rate:
    • 0-5bpm higher than normal train as normal
    • 5-10bpm higher than normal, train but at a lower intensity/volume
    • >10 bpm higher than normal – have a rest day.
    • Make sleep, rest and recovery an important part of your training program and not something that is an after-thought.

More: Every hour counts

It is my firm belief that experience is always the best teacher. I write this fully disclosing that at one time or another in my life I have dealt with every single one of the symptoms listed above. There is no doubt in my mind that when I experience these things I would’ve brought them on myself but I take solace in the fact that I have learned from my mistakes. Why? Because a person who takes up the sport at the age of 40 can very much race into their 70′s if they look at the big picture and pay attention to the warning signs of over-training and that’s how I wish to live out the duration of my years!

Please note:  I am not a medical doctor. As such, all medical information and advice I present here are for educational purposes only. You should discuss any medical issues with your physician.

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