What if I told you that all those back-to-back days of hard long training coupled with frequent weekends of racing hard on Saturday and Sunday isn’t going to make you stronger? What if it could quite possibly leave you overweight, chronically fatigued, chronically injured, unmotivated and extremely unhealthy? Don’t think so? Well it happens. A LOT!
I have seen it and experienced it first hand in triathlon and am now seeing it begin to happen in the OCR world. I am going to break it down into the two components that I see the most, describe how each can negatively impact your training and health and give you tips to overcome them.
Too Much. Too Often. Too Intense
This is a common theme among endurance athletes. If one training session a day is good for you then two sessions a day must be better! Do you or have you fallen into this category? I am not saying that the occasional two-a-day training session is bad for you, but if you’re doing it more than once a week you should be very cautious.
A lot of athletes will do a boot camp in the morning then some other high intensity session in the afternoon or vice versa. Or they will train hard all week leading up to a race, go straight into the event, and then go right back to training on Monday. What these athletes don’t realize is they are only making themselves vulnerable to illness and injury.
Every time you train, you tear your body down. Your muscles get damaged, creating tiny micro-tears from the trauma of training/racing. Your nervous system and hormones are stressed as well. This is totally fine and a natural product of training, but it requires adequate recovery, preferably 48 hours between intense bouts at a minimum.
I fell prey to this when I was training for Ironman two years ago. Days of six-hour bike rides followed the next day by weights and/or a 60-90 minute run, an hour swim the next or same day then back to the bike. I was training between 12-15 hours per week on average.
Initially I felt fine. Yeah I was tired, I noticed I wasn’t sleeping as well, but I was training for Ironman! I was a bad ass! That’s what we do!
That left me exhausted and unmotivated. A hormone panel revealed that I had the testosterone levels of an 80-year-old old man. I have seen the same thing with OCR athletes.
Signs to look for: Irregular/disrupted sleep, waking up exhausted, loss of appetite, chronically sore, tired throughout the day. Plan to give yourself at least one full day of rest per week and plan a recovery week every three to four weeks where you decreased your volume and intensity by half and focus on sleep and mobility.
Life stress matters
When the average weekend warrior athlete looks at their training and race schedule, they usually compare themselves to a pro. After all even if we never achieve “pro” status we aim to train the way they do. I mean they are doing it, so it must be a good idea.
What most people fail to realize is that professional athletes spend as much time recovering as they do training, if not more. That’s why they’re able to train the way they do. Their job is to race. Your job may be in sales.
After your early morning butt kicking you pound a protein shake and head to the office where you are constantly met with deadlines, meetings, pressures to perform, etc. So instead of getting a massage and a nap, you’re sitting in a chair, on a plane, or in a car for eight or more hours shutting off your glutes and creating tight hips.
This creates stress and at the end of the day regardless if your stress is coming from work, family, your workouts, all three and more, it compiles and will 100% negatively impact your performance and your health.
Tips to Manage Stress: Start your day with a gratitude practice. Either before you get out of bed or on your drive to your workout or office, think of three to five things that you are truly grateful for. Think about them, visualize them, smile as you do this and allow yourself to feel happy. There is quite a bit of research showing that daily gratitude and meditation reduces stress and increases immune function.
When times are tough in life take a break from heavy/hard training. It may seem like a stress relief but trust me, and I am talking from personal experience, that’s not what you want to do. Adding physical stress on top of mental stress can cause some serious health concerns.
There are indeed other factors that can contribute to an athlete overtraining but in my experience the two discussed in this article are the key drivers in this situation. If you are experiencing any of the signs above then I urge you to assess your training and seek the advice of a certified and experienced coach. If you would like to schedule a consultation with me to assess your training and goals please email me at [email protected]. Best of luck and train smart!