Am I Over Training?

Most of us now acknowledge that rest is important and that we can only get better if we get adequate rest periods. But unlike the plethora of information of how much you should actively train or what type of sessions you should do, there is precious little advice to tell you how much rest is enough or too much!

There is good reason why exercise professionals are unwilling to prescribe a designated ‘recovery time’ from any given training or racing load. It is simply because we are all different. Some athletes will recover quickly from a tough session and be ready to go in 48hrs others will still be feeling heavy legged a week later.

Similarly, some guys can knock out 4 Ironman events a year, whilst others are taking 4 week breaks to get over just one. This is not just because of fitness, but a whole range of factors that come into play. From percentage of muscle mass, available fat reserves, a wide range of environmental factors not to mention psychological factors that are often overlooked.

Coaches and athletes can rely on a few physiological rules of thumb to help build adequate rest periods:

  • Glycogen stores take between 10-14 days to fully replenish after a hard event
  • Almost all lactic acid is cleared from the muscles within 2 mins of completing exercise
  • Muscle soreness tends to peak at 2 days post event and is completely gone after 5 days
  • After a hard training session or race the body is unlikely to be ready to go hard again until 48hrs later

Coaches are often led by athletes when it comes to prescribing rest periods. This is because many of the things that may indicate an athlete is fatigued and needs a rest are often subtle and can only be articulated by the athlete, not measured by the coach.

The worry of over training in the build for a 140.6 is a common feeling for many amateur and elite athletes (as well as their coaches). Are you getting enough sleep? Is your nutrition doing it’s job? Are these sessions really hard or am I just shattered?

A neat technique we use with Racesnake athletes is a truncated version of the Profile of Mood chart. Profile of Mood (POM) questionnaires look at soft aspects of recovery such as sleep quality, enthusiasm for training, appetite etc.  The full barrage of questions in a POM can be a little time consuming but for most athletes a short and simple version, focussing on a few key areas can be a powerful tool for establishing whether your peaking, stagnating or absolutely desperate for a rest. 

Here is the example used by Racesnake (based on original in Peak Performance Online 2017):

Simply rate each statement on a 1-5 scale as follows: 1 = strongly disagree; 2 = disagree; 3 = neutral; 4 = agree; 5 = strongly agree

A score of 20+ is good, 25+ is known as flood state and indicates your ready to race. Less than 18 maybe take a rest day or two!

Using this simple chart on a regular (daily or weekly) basis can help athletes and coaches build a picture of the athletes physical and mental readiness to race or train.  Of course you have to act on the results and remember that rest is when you improve!

Happy training.

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