Recovery is the key to success or how to avoid overtraining

Recovery is the key to success or how to avoid overtraining

As many of you are heading for Kona and therefore are in their very hot phase of training I assume that the most helpful post would be to summarize the essential but discrete signs you have to watch out for to avoid overtraining.

Especially from studies that dealt with the effects of human growth hormone – a substance that is definitely on the WADA’s list and considered as doping – we know that performance enhancement is very closely related to recovery times.
Which means that doping agents, be it steroids or more powerful substances such as growth factors, speed up recovery time. It becomes that short that the training loads you can take on the day after a hard training session are just terrific. Those tested in the study where just startled of its effects, so very tempting to use them. Read more about hGH on the Science of Sport blog.

What I want to say with that is that if you want to avoid overtraining, you need to listen to your body’s needs for recovery. That is easily said, but it is not easy at all to realize the transition from generalized fatigue that is an essential ingredient of proper training (after O’Toole, 1998 termed overreaching) to that bit of more fatigue that indicates the sliding into overtraining.

If you read the literature there is a wide consensus about the fact that we have distinguish between stages of fatigue. The first person who introduced these subtle grades of fatigue into exercise science and coaching was James Counsilman in 1968 (a former swim coach at Indiana University).
Counsilman’s fatigue zones may help you to evaluate your own condition. Zone A refers to an athlete who trains moderately hard and becomes mildy fatigued after 5 days of training. This athlete will barely reach a fatigue zone. During the recovery period on the weekend his fatigue level slightly drops below the previous one observed the week before. Training effects are minor. If you push yourself to the upper limit of the fatigue zone B, then recovery on the weekend lowers your fatigue level conspicuously compared to the observation point before This is what is called super-adaptation. Zone C of fatigue is a result of too hard training. It pushes you into a valley of fatigue. You may need the whole weekend to fully recover. If you start your training before that your level of fatigue will increase further during the following training week. Training is progressing from overreaching to overtraining. The alarm is on!

This inability to produce your best when you are apparently in good form is the first sign of incipient overtraining.

I know pro athletes who do not monitor their training. After many years of experience they know or may only think that they know 😉 where they are in training without making notes. Moreover, they may have coaches giving them a feedback on their current condition. But if you are an age grouper who cannot only focus on training, but has got a job and a family, and is left to his or her devices in many ways, then it could be of great importance to monitor your training performance. It makes you see your falls in performance immediately and you cannot cheat on yourself. Please, add to your notes all extra stress factors that happened during the training week. Stress from other than training accumulates and may force you to reduce the workload.
What is needed, I think, on top of a training schedule, is a level of fatigue and stress resistance protocol. For this reason time-trials make sense, even for age groupers. This is where the heart rate comes in, not so much the stopwatch, and the recovery time after the time-trial. As long as you are in zone B your heart rate is the same or lowers compared to before, your recovery time remains the same or goes down as well. All this changes directions, if you are on the threshold to overtraining.

So far so good, there will be more next time. No, one more thing at the end, doesn’t this text, for which I got lots of inspiration from Tim Noakes, the author of the lore of running, thank you!, show the great and overall importance of recovery!



Susann is the biest prototype and head of the team. She is Austrian, has studied medicine, meaning she is a medical doctor and the Biesters' alpha wolf. Susann continuously produces new ideas, is strong in making concepts and is practically always ON FIRE. Without her BIESTMILCH wouldn't be where and what it is today, and anyway - not possible.

Underperformance or the art of peaking on time

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