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Coach's Column - Avoid Over Training and Rest for Success

Posted by: Shannon Boffeli |April 17, 2013 3:23 PM

Coach's Column with Travis Woodruff - Avoid Over Training and Rest for Success


Question: "How do I know if Iím training too hard? How will not having proper rest affect my overall training?"

Answer: There are two ways that someone can go about training "too hardĒ. First is by riding at an intensity that is too high given a specific goal for that day.  This is training "too hardĒ on an acute scale and is very much a function of improper pacing. On a more chronic scale, riders can train "too hardĒ by accumulating more workload over several days or weeks then they are able to effectively recover from.  In this situation, more hard training only leads to more fatigue and little or no training benefit. It seems as though your question is geared more towards this second scenario, so thatís where Iíll go with my reply.

Monitor your training and look for clues as to how well youíre recovering

In order to determine if and when youíre training too hard, itíll be helpful to monitor your rides and keep track of the workload that youíre accumulating each day.  If thereís a sharp increase in your riding volume and/or intensity that is sustained for some amount of time youíll begin to notice the ill effects of training "too hardĒ. Thereís a fine line between creating an overload (good thing!) and remaining overloaded for too long of a time (bad thing!). A power meter is the best way to quantify the work youíre doing on the bike, but some good notes regarding how long and how tough your rides are will go a long ways too. Consider how motivated you are to go out and do each ride, your general level of stress, your sleep quality and also your general sense of fatigue.  For example, if youíre relying on even more coffee to get you through the day, this could be a warning flag to take note of. If you can note several of these factors and youíve noticed a decrease in your performance on the bike, then itís probable that youíre training too hard and not recovering well enough.

A quick, but important distinction to note

Overtraining is a term that a lot of riders like to use, but more accurately most of us should be saying "under-recoveredĒ rather than "over-trainedĒ.  There are physiological markers associated with the over-trained condition and unfortunately elite level athletes can sometimes end up there. Most of us however arenít logging nearly enough training to be medically over-trained. Being under-recovered is a very real situation that impacts all of us at some point or another.

Hard training is only as valuable as your recovery allows

Forgoing adequate recovery will reduce the overall effectiveness of your training. Training is a process of creating an overload and then recovering from it. If youíre not resting properly, your training overload wonít offer itís full effect.  It is while recovering that you actually get stronger, so skimping here does have a big impact on your training.  For a given amount of training, there will be a lesser response that is achieved when your recovery is limited.

Since our training doesnít occur in a vacuum, itís important to balance our riding with our real lives.  The body can only tolerate a certain amount of stress regardless of its source so it makes sense to find a balance that works best for you. The quality of your recovery will determine the overall effectiveness of your training. If youíre going to invest the time to train hard, then itís wise also to allow enough down time so that you can reap the full benefit of your efforts. The best mapped out training plan will be worth very little unless proper attention is given to your recovery between hard rides or block of hard training. All of the little things add up big time here. Your sleep, nutrition, hydration, general stress level, and mental focus will all impact the quality of your recovery and ultimately the effectiveness of your training. When the training gets really hard or life gets crazy busy, something has to giveÖ

Learn to recover better

It seems as though the longer someone is committed to training over the years (regardless of their time availability or racing level) the more they realize the importance of recovery and its impact upon their performance. Even if you donít have additional training time, you can still realize improved fitness via better recovery.

We all want to ride fast and make the most of our training. To do so, itís important to also acknowledge when itís a good time to take it easy. Sometimes taking one step back from the training will allow you to make two steps forward. If youíve been training well, but begin to plateau or lose a little desire to put in your rides  - be sure to take note. If youíre feeling run down from your riding and you havenít been getting quite enough sleep lately, then itís likely that youíre due for a little extra recovery time.  Being just a little less overloaded, but plenty motivated will yield far better training adaptation than being chronically under recovered and unmotivated.

Timing is everything and planning your training to allow for breaks is critical.  The season can be long so itís wise to not only plan for when youíll be working hard and going fast, but also when youíll be willing to take it easy and allow a little more recovery.  The best training is hard training, but only so hard that youíre still able to recover from it. Take some notes along the way and have fun with the process as you make the most of your training and recovery.

Travis Woodruff is a USAC Level I (elite) certified coach who holds a B.S. in Kinesiology with emphasis in Exercise Science. Heís coached riders to five MTB National Championship wins and has over 10 years of personal racing experience. Since 2005 heís competed as a pro mountain biker and has coached full-time. His business, Momentum Endurance LLC, is based out of Tucson, Arizona where he hosts wintertime training camps.


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