How do you know when to stop, when you’ve pushed it too far? Making yourself tired and fatigued is a necessary part of becoming a fitter stronger athlete. But maximising your training time and finding your limits can mean dancing a little too closely towards the fine line that sits between fatigue and over-training syndrome.
“Overtraining syndrome is a condition that occurs when the body is pushed (through exercise) beyond its natural ability to recover. Importantly, it’s not to be confused with mere tiredness, which is to be expected whenever you are engaged in a comprehensive workout regime.” – Scott Laidler, Online Personal Trainer
If you’ve ever gone beyond stage 1 of over training syndrome, you’ll know all about it. It’s a frustrating and unpleasant experience that can set you back weeks. Dr Phil Maffetone has done a great job of describing the 3 different phases of over training and how to spot them Here.
I’ve been stubborn by pushing things too far before and found out that over training really does suck. So this Friday when I started to get those familiar feelings again, I immediately changed my plan. This week is the final week of a tough 3 week build phase, so it’s no surprise that i’m getting close to the limits, it just came a few days too soon.
I’d had a bad morning commute, which I put down to a bad nights sleep. On the return journey that evening it was a total catastrophe. Bad sensations in the legs and riding in Z3 I felt absolutely exhausted. I backed off to Z1 and started to wonder how long an Uber would take to find me inbetween Ascot and Fifield!
My plan this week was to do 6 hours over the weekend including a sunday club run. I REALLY wanted to ride this weekend and was very tempted to risk it and just write Friday off as a bad day. However, thinking back to how long it took me to recover from over training syndrome last time my only real option was to suck it up and rest.
A few lifestyle changes and external factors may have contributed to me tipping slightly over the edge recently. Poor hydration throughout the day, fasted morning rides and cutting calories back all have potential to reduce recovery. As in my quoted definition of over training, it is the point when you push past your natural ability to recover. So even though these last few weeks haven’t been crazy in terms of mileage or intensity, I have fallen foul of under recovery.
The other contributor could be that my previous rest week was hampered by a cyclocross race and so my TSB hasn’t been a positive number since 11th October now. However my predicted TSB for tomorrow is now 1.1 so i’ll proceed with caution on my rest week and hopefully avoid a total disaster!
It’s hard to articulate how to tell the difference between being tired or bonking and being over reached or over trained. My advice would be to get really familiar with your power zones and have a really good feel for how hard each zone should be. How much harder a zone 5 ride is compared to zone 4, or how much easier zone 2 is compared to zone 3 etc etc. That way when a Z2 ride feels really hard and you can’t push at all… you know that it’s a bad sensation and that you need to change your plan.
There are 4 months to go until race season, so if you find yourself in this situation, don’t panic! Rest up, relax and rebuild. Fingers crossed for some tip top recovery this week!
Peace out and Ride Safe!