The problem with training hard for any sport is that once you get to a certain point, you aren’t necessarily getting healthier. You may be getting fitter, but healthy? Perhaps not.
Alongside this, the warning signs are there, but are mainly ignored. As athletes we know that training again and again, putting ourselves back into the hole, is the best way to adapt, to become better, faster and more competitive.
When we finally over-reach ourselves, something gives. Something breaks. Our ability to compete, or even train, goes down and we are faced with potentially a long, slow road to recovery.
The problem is, that although there are some markers and signs of overtraining, athletes tend to see them as signs of not needing to train harder.
Overtiredness, reduced ability to hit high heart-rates, bad nights sleep, inability to recover, reduced work capacity and top speed. All these things, although they are signs of overtraining – or at least, over reaching, are things that appear to be things that can be overcome by more training.
If we got to this level by training hard, surely any stagnation, any reduction in power or speed can be overcome by more training…. Right?
When you have a hard session, and things don’t go quite as well as they should have done, there is that nagging feeling – should I have tried harder? Could I have tried harder? Do I need to train harder? Can I do something today that will make me better?
And funnily enough, the answer is yes – but it is seldom what we think it is – taking time to let the body recover.
The problem with prescribing rest and recovery is that it doesn’t seem hard enough.
I’ll say that again. The problem with prescribing rest and recovery is that it doesn’t seem hard enough. We have stories of days gone by of various athletes putting in immense sessions, working early the next day, and continuing to train after that – and they were still faster and better than us.
Are we softer than them? Do we have to rest more now than in previous times? Would they have been even better with more recovery?
Maybe it is because past evidence of other athletes show that if we train harder we will get better. The inclusion of rest and recovery is almost a new thing, and it almost seems like we are taking two steps back in order to take half a step forward
Maybe it is down to work capacity. When people worked physical jobs for years on end, their body’s were used to constant use, abuse and recovery. Their capacity for work, for the battering that training gives your body was far in excess of many people who work at desks – through force of necessity.
If your body doesn’t have the capacity to recover and train again in the time you are giving it, eventually you will work yourself into a hole.
Training breaks the body down. Recovery makes you stronger.