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Overtraining, Overreaching, and planning for next season

Posted on Thursday, September 19 at 01:24 PM

The end of the road-racing season is around the corner, bringing with it burnout and symptoms of overtraining. Most of the NorCal contingent is attempting to wrestle every bit of fitness out of their bodies before they march into the bitterly cold, and inhospitable Northern California winter.

Perhaps one of the most difficult decisions facing bike racers in NorCal is when not to race. Since the road calendar begins in January and stretches through October, the yearly challenge seems to be making it to August or September without losing motivation to train and race. With the capacity for so much riding and racing in NorCal, overtraining and burnout can derail a season before the hay bails even get stacked at Nevada City. Understanding some of the mechanisms and warning signs of overtraining can be an important asset as you begin setting your sights on Snelling pot holes and cherry pies next year.

This post will focus on the concept of overtraining and how to make proactive decisions in your planning that will impact your training success for the upcoming season. First, let’s jump in by taking a closer look at overtraining.

The first term to examine, often confused with overtraining, is overreaching. Put simply, overreaching is the typical progression of training accompanied by adequate rest and recovery [1]. Recovery from overreaching is typically a short-term proposition taking several days to weeks at most. Overtraining on the other hand differs from overreaching in that it is the accumulation of stress, either training or non-training related, that leads to a long-term decrement in performance, requiring weeks or months of recovery [2]. In a nutshell, overreaching is the successful balancing of the fatigue/rest equation, while overtraining is the imbalance of these same factors.

Since overtraining can be difficult to identify [1], it might be helpful to narrow our focus to two primary symptoms that can serve as evidence of an overtrained state. These two symptoms are sustained performance decrement and prolonged fatigue. While many other physiological markers have been suggested for diagnosing overtraining, decreased performance and unshakeable fatigue are the markers most commonly used in identifying and treating overtraining.

Now that we’ve identified the most important warning signs of overtraining how do we use these markers to help design and inform a long-term training strategy for the upcoming season? In the next blog post I will outline 5 specific strategies to implement into your season planning that will help ward off overtraining and early season burnout while keeping you fresh and motivated throughout your competitive season.

—Nate

References

1. Meeusen, R., et al., Prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of the overtraining syndrome: joint consensus statement of the European College of Sport Science and the American College of Sports Medicine. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 2013. 45(1): p. 186-205.

2. Halson, S.L. and A.E. Jeukendrup, Does overtraining exist? An analysis of overreaching and overtraining research. Sports Med, 2004. 34(14): p. 967-81.