Can You Train Too Hard?

We’ve all done it.

We all fall into the trap. The summer months have arrived, and it takes every ounce of our being to not take to the open road, and launch into every workout full-blast, determined to sweat our hearts out in the summer sunshine. We do this willingly, visioning our dreams of completion, achievement, personal bests, and all the other race day feels. 

We want our friends on Strava, Garmin, and all forms of social media to see how fast we went. How strong we are. How far we went, how far we’ve come, how far we’ll go. But is it too much? Is it too hard? Will you reach that goal?

Now that most folks are in the midst of their race or event season, it is critically important find a good balance between easy and hard days, recovery/restoration protocols, and the overall stress budget. Here are a few ways to monitor your summer of training in hopes of obtaining your goals.

1. GO EASY! I list this first because it’s the hardest thing for athletes to do. “How do I get faster by going slow?”. One of the things to remember about your easy days is that the goal is NOT to gain fitness within that workout. The objective is recover…that’s it! Simply getting blood flowing through the body, in order to help better prepare to push it during the next session. If you’re able to nail all of your intense interval workouts, your recovery workouts will be what separates you from your competition on race day.

2. Focus on restoration techniques. What can you do to help your recovery along? Answer: What CAN’T you do?! For starters, hydration and fueling are extra important in race season, especially with sweat rate increasing from the summer heat. Having a fueling plan for both training sessions and daily living that focuses on good hydration and healthy fueling is important. Increasing daily self-care techniques – stretching, self-massage, foam rolling, for example – will help to prevent any injuries coming from increased intensity or overtraining. On top of all this, if you can find 7+ hours a night to sleep, you’ll do yourself a lot of favors!

3. Recognize overtraining. Is your Heart Rate soaring higher than usual, at all intensities? Are you tired non-stop? Are you struggling to achieve your training goals? If one or more of these are true, you might be overtraining! You may also feel less competent, feel a little less hungry, and a bit moodier. Dial back some of those hard days, add in a few easy days, and even plan a complete day off from training! Once you’ve removed some of these symptoms, your training will start to feel right again, and you’ll be back on your way to reaching your goals.

4. You do you! As hard as it can be at times, do your best not to compare your workout with your friends or competitors. It may be tempting to compete with your buddy that just CRUSHED a hard bike workout on a day that your coach has you doing an easy ride, but long term, your coach has your best interest in mind. And your body will thank you for it, when your next session calls for some high-intense intervals. When your results yield success, you’ll likely start to see more recovery sessions in your peers Strava feed.

All goals are different, of course. Some folks are looking for a podium position at the local 5K, while others are trying to get a world championship long course triathlon slot. Others want to just finish that marathon they trained so hard for! Whatever it might be, these tips will surely help you ensure that you achieve success at whatever your event may be. As the cliché goes – make the hard days hard, and the easy days easy.

This post was written by former Coach, Joe Rich.

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