During the week between Christmas and the New Year a very talented athlete started coming into the gym to workout twice per day. This represented a doubling of her current training baseline and I saw the trainwreck coming. Sure enough the next week she succumb to the influenza that had engulfed our city.
Was this training error preventable? In my opinion it was completely and totally preventable and represents the reckless unbridled training mentally that currently exists. Bill Bowerman said that left to their own resources, 90% of all athletes will overtraining themselves.
Shame on me for doing a poor job of drilling home natural training laws that apply to every mortal or drug free athlete.
Know Your Sleep Optimal and Minimal:
The base level of every pyramid is sleep. This is the detoxifying and repair stage of training and more important than any other element of fitness and wellness. The harder you are training (#2) the more sleep you need. Assuming you are getting high quality rest, to stay healthy you need more than six hours. More and more research points to the value of 8-10 hours. Athletes who slept 10 hours improved on every single performance test that was administered.
I’ll buy the notion that someone might need more and some might need less. (The important part is knowing your optimal hours and your minimum hours. You are not going to run on this minimum for more than a couple of days during a training cycle, but that you know when you need to hibernate some to get back into a rhythm.) To find find out more requires some tracking. There are any number of sleep tracking options. I would suggest WHOOP, SleepCycle, MotionX, Jawbone and Basis as the top in sensitivity for this task.
Track your sleep for at least two weeks to see how well rested you are. Since 3 million of us have undetected sleep apnea, it’s possible your are not resting as well as you should. If you are waking up without an alarm or just prior to your alarm sounding off, you’ve probably located your sleeping sweet spot. Don’t need or desire a nap? This is another sweet spot indicator.
If your sleep monitor is ping ponging all over the place you’ve have bigger fish to fry and should see out medical assistance.
Know Your Training Load
Most folks know their “WOD” time or score, but not many know what their training load was from any particular session. Training load takes into consideration the duration and the intensity of a training session and expresses this into a single value.
Endurance trained athletes who use the correct heart rate monitoring technology (Polar) can generate training load with this technology. Using the Polar personal trainer web interface and their system can alert an athlete to a potential overtraining state.
If you do not have this at your disposal you can use a simple formula of:
Training Intensity (1-10 Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) x Training Duration = Training Load
Your metabolic conditioning circuit was 20 minutes long. This and this took about an 80% effort (RPE of 8).
20 x 8 = 160
This value is now your training load for the day. This value should be summed for the week. 160 + whatever the other days total during the week. Here’s another little tidbit. Typically, you should not increase your training load more than 10% from one week to the next. So going back to my introductory story, This teacher, mom, spouse likely doubled her training load during that week between Christmas and the new year. Explains a lot.
Objectively Monitor Your Recovery
It’s very difficult for type A driven individuals to be honest about their recovery. They all nod their heads in acknowledging overtraining potential, but when interviewed about their ability to take on another session they will suppress the truth and ignore that obvious. They should just stay in bed.
ELITE HRV relies on Heart Rate Variability (HRV) over time to determine the health and readiness of the participant. HRV monitoring is the most significant objective contribution to intelligent exercise design. The ELITE HRV dashboard interface host valuable information for the participant and coach.
Improvements come over time with consistent and uninterrupted work. Improving sleep, monitoring recovery and keeping tabs on training load will provide a healthier and more consistent training approach.
This piece was originally appeared on the WHOLE9 Blog