Are You Pushing Yourself Over the Limit?
Sure, in the months leading up to race day, the little voice in your head has been ever present but faint, gently motivating you to push forward with your training.
Yet as we near race month, with a handful of weeks between you and glory, the faint voice is shouting to the heavens with the ethereal candor of a full gospel choir.
But is it for all of us?
One common mistake that takes place towards the end of training leading up to the main event is, quite simply, overtraining. There are many reasons why we overtrain, consciously and subconsciously. Below you will find some of the warning signs of overtraining along with tips to recover from the exertion.
One of the earliest and most common of warning signs concerning overtraining is lack of motivation. It is a common fact of our daily lives with many factors that filter into it. For beginners especially, adding a rigorous training plan to an already busy daily routine might have you grasping at straws towards the end of the day. As you’ve increased mileage and intensity, towards the final weeks of training you may feel yourself wanting to just give up or running on empty. As Scott DeFilippis mentions for Triathlete Magazine concerning overtraining: “If you find that at the end of the day, the last thing you want to do is get up and train again, then you are most likely overcooking yourself.”
TRAINING TIP: Hit the refresh button! If you’re feeling overdone, it is time to take a couple of days and REST. Yes, I can hear you mentally screaming – “We’re only weeks away, I can’t rest!” Well, you can and you must. Lack of motivation is your body telling you that it needs a break. Take a couple of days to catch up on sleep and rest. Make sure to keep hydrated and continue eating nutrient-rich foods (avocados, protein, nuts). Taking a step back does not mean indulging in burgers and beer. Your body is simply in recovery mode.
Hitting a plateau is often incorrectly bundled with lack of motivation but it is actually more harmful to your training regime. You know the one we’re talking about- the point in your training where you no longer find any excitement or challenge in your routine. Or even worse, where it seems that you are not making any progress whether its gains or losses. You may feel that although you have been focusing on swimming extra laps or pushing extra miles on your run that you are not improving on your time/pace. This is completely normal. The body is like a machine. your muscles need to time to calibrate to the next level, despite the added exertion.
TRAINING TIP: Studies have shown that athletes often feel discouraged at this point- do not give up! our discouragement comes from not achieving the ‘X results’ we thought we would see by ‘X time’. Please remember that everyone is different and while Stacy from the gym was running at a 9:30 pace by Week 10, that doesn’t mean you will be too – and that’s perfectly ok. Focus on you. Take encouragement from your own personal victories. How far have you come in the past couple of weeks? Think of where you were when you started your training and where you are now. Reminding yourself of your own small victories will help clear the cloud of discouragement that overwhelms the spirit during a plateau.
0 to 100 Real Quick
Do you find yourself on an ever-shortening fuse? Are you snapping at friends and family or perhaps overreacting to small issues? Our emotional stability is also affected by overtraining. As athletes, we project all of our emotions on those around us. This is why we push people as they taper close to the finish line or congratulate anyone you see with a finisher medal post race. The athlete community is one of positivity and perseverance but when that cracks or we feel that we are not excelling, the projections can quickly turn negative. When you are overtraining, you run the risk of expending any excitement you may have for the main event. We’ve heard the stories dozens of times, athletes getting to race day and feeling exhausted or drained. This can lead to underperformance on race day or worse, pushing yourself to the brink of injury.
TRAINING TIP: Quality over quantity will help you get over this emotional hump. Lower your intensity and reps or lower your overall training hours for a week. Especially for triathletes, form over speed will always get your further. A fast swimmer with poor form will overexert themselves sooner and faster- leaving them drained. The same goes for the other legs of the event as well. As Mike Shultz, head coach of Highland Training, states for Ironman Online: “Remember that your level of fitness and experience will determine how much volume and intensity you can handle, as well as your ability to recover, but learning when you have reached your limit is key.” No amount of music or nutrition will give you the same caliber of a final push that your emotional stamina can provide; take care of it!