Getting the balance right between training, rest and nutrition is a delicate equilibrium that every athlete needs to establish correctly in order to optimise performance. Too much of anything will have a negative impact on performance and general well-being. Improving at any sport requires pushing your body beyond its current threshold so that you stimulate it to adapt by growing stronger and faster. However, there’s a fine line between challenging your body and putting it under too much stress. If you overtrain, you won’t see performance gains. On the contrary, you might even see a decrease in fitness as a result of over-stressed muscles, tendons and ligaments. Triathlon training is demanding because it involves three different sports with numerous variables that can be manipulated to make sessions harder or easier depending on your specific needs at the time. Overtraining can impact any one of these individual disciplines negatively so it pays to be aware of some key risk factors when combining them all together into one training plan.
Lack of recovery time between workouts
If you’re training with inadequate rest between workouts – or if you’re training too frequently – you could be increasing your chances of overtraining. Triathlon training is a high-stress activity that places extreme demands on your body. Athletes who don’t allow adequate time for their bodies to recover from one training session before they rush into the next are likely to experience significant performance decline as a result of overtraining. In particular, swimming and cycling are two disciplines that are usually done with inadequate rest between workouts. Since both activities are endurance-based and are done with no rest for the muscles, it’s important to give your body plenty of time to recover before going into another long session. Swimming and cycling sessions should not be done with less than 48 hours in between.
Lack of variety in training sessions
Swimming, cycling and running are all fantastic exercises for improving your overall fitness. However, if you’re doing the same routine all the time, you’ll start to see diminishing returns very quickly. All your training sessions should have a purpose so that you’re continually improving on what you did before. If you start to see a plateau in your progress, it’s a warning sign that your routine needs to change. What’s more, your body will be better able to defend itself against overtraining if it’s constantly being challenged by new exercises to perform. Doing the same thing over and over can cause your body to become accustomed to the exercise and thus more susceptible to overtraining.
Improper nutrition and hydration
Both over- and under-eating can contribute to overtraining. When you’re training regularly, it’s important to make sure you’re giving your body the correct amount of fuel (both in terms of nutrients and calories) to stay energised and healthy. Depending on what types of training you’re doing and the intensity of those sessions, you might need more or less calories than the average person. Extremely intense training loads can cause your body to go into a state of starvation because it’s burning so many calories. In the short-term, this is fine, but if you’re sustaining an intense training schedule for a long period of time, your body will start to break down. Improper hydration is another common contributor to overtraining. You need to replace the fluid lost during exercise – especially if you’re training in hot weather. Even if you’re not training, if you’re not drinking enough water, you could be putting yourself at risk of overtraining.
In order to avoid overtraining in triathlon, you need to listen to your body and understand the signs that it is overstressed. It’s important to keep in mind that the symptoms of overtraining will vary from person to person. Some athletes feel stressed out and overwhelmed during training, while others may become depressed. The most common symptom of overtraining is chronic fatigue. It is important to take note of these warning signs as overtraining could put you at risk for illness or injury. To avoid overtraining, it is recommended that you have at least one day off from exercise per week.