I am a huge advocate of following training plans when preparing for races – anything from 10Ks to sprint triathlons to marathons. The benefit of training plans is that they offer an easy and logical way to build mileage and prepare you for the event. The downfall is that it’s tempting to adopt the mindset that the plan is the end all/be all and you can’t modify skip workouts.
The truth of the matter is that there is no “perfect for everyone” training plan and it’s important to modify them to meet your specific needs. If not, you may find yourself overtrained.
Give yourself permission to rest or back off of the intensity when your body is sending signals that you may be overtraining. Some of the physical symptoms include:
- A general feeling of fatigue that you can’t shake
- Sleeping poorly and not having restful sleep
- Getting sick – picking up colds and other bugs that are going around more frequently than normal due to a weakened immune system
- Feeling down in the dumps and not motivated to train
- A decrease in performance – struggling to maintain your normal pace or getting the “dead legs” sensation
- Injuries, aches and pains
We've talked a lot about overtraining recently. Check out our story on
andhow to avoid overtraining after a race
. Today we're going to talk about two tests that you can do on your own if you suspect you may be overtraining.
Please note that these are only meant to serve as guidelines and not absolutes. Always consult with your physician before starting a new activity or if you are experiencing any negative effects from training.
Tracking Your Resting Heart Rate
The easiest way to tell if you are overtraining is to monitor your resting heart rate. This is your heart rate when your body is at complete rest – you should be lying down and awake but not recently active. The best time to take your resting heart rate is upon first waking up in the morning before you’ve even gotten out of bed.
Take your resting heart rate by lightly placing two fingers on the inside of the wrist to find the radial pulse or on the side of the neck to find the carotid pulse. Count the beats in 10 seconds and multiply by 6 to find the beats per minute.
The average adult resting heart rate is between 60-80 beats per minute but many highly conditioned athletes may have resting heart rates that are much lower. (Lance Armstrong had a resting heart rate of 32-34 bpm at his peak – insane!)
Don’t worry so much about what your baseline number is as long as it falls within or below the normal range. What you really want to watch for is any elevation. If your average number increases by 5-10 bpm, consider it a sign that you may need to take a rest day and back off of the intensity of your training.
Heart Rate Zone Training and Recovery
Many training plans call for speed work. In general, speed work is extremely effective to help increase pace and performance but if you are on the road to overtraining, pushing your body that hard can lead to injury.
Speed work usually cycles you through different heart rate zones. Tracking these zones requires the use of a heart rate monitor.
Calculate your maximum heart rate by 220-age, keeping in mind that this is just a rough guideline. To know your true maximum heart rate you would want to have a stress test done on a treadmill.
Zone 1 (65-75% of max)Maximum heart rate x .65 or .75
Zone 2 (80-85% of max)Maximum heart rate x .80 or .85
Zone 3 (86-90% of max)Maximum heart rate x .86 or .90
How to apply this to test for overtrainingthis would be especially useful at the beginning of a speed workout.(Source - NASM: Essentials of Personal Fitness Training)
- Warm up in Zone 1 for 10 minutes
- Increase speed/intensity every 60 seconds until you reach Zone 3. This should include about a 2 minute climb through Zone 2.
- Push for 1 minute in Zone 3
- Decrease workload for 1 minute. You want to recover to a Zone 2 heart rate within that minute. If recovery does not happen that fast, consider yourself tired or overtrained and stay in Zone 1 or Zone 2 for the rest of the workout. It is not your day for speed work!
And as always,listen to your body
. If it is telling you to take a break, take a break! It's much easier to recover from overtraining at the beginning stages rather than letting it escalate to exhaustion or injury.
What are your signs that you are overtraining?
Jen DeCurtins is the content manager for Run Charlotte Run. She is a certified personal trainer, 200-hour registered yoga teacher, CrossFit coach and food and fitness blogger at Peanut Butter Runner.