By Carrie Lester, Pro Triathlete and Coach
I am not a doctor, an exercise scientist, or any other scholar when it comes to identifying signs of overtraining or when we as athletes are simply in need of a few easy days. I am, however a coach and an athlete, and have years of experience racing as a professional athlete in my body and mind. It has taken a long time to recognize the clear signs that I am on the edge, and I see similar signs in athletes I coach as they are Age Group athletes managing work, kids, training, social commitments and basic life chores. These are my top 5 signs:
This one for me is the screaming sign I am in need of some easier days.
Feelings of depression, anxiety, irritability, lack of motivation, low self esteem, low everything…it starts to become consuming. Why? Without getting into the science = HORMONES. What we do places an awful amount of stress on our body and mind and eventually our hormones start flipping out. They control everything. When I find myself in tears for no apparent reason, its time for a rest.
2. Food choices.
Where’s the sugar?? I want it ALL the time. Hormones are out of whack, mood is down, what is going to make me feel better…SUGAR! Most of the time I eat a balanced, healthy diet. But when I am at a low point, I make bad choices. Then feel worse because I made the bad choice. And turns out it didn’t make me feel better.
3. Strength & Power.
I have none. Just deep fatigue. In any discipline I am fighting myself in whatever I do. My legs, arms, everything is heavy, and no matter how much time I give myself to “clear the pipes” in sessions it just doesn’t happen and usually ends in tears (a little over exaggerated but known to happen). 80% efforts are capped at 60% if I am lucky because I can’t go any faster, my heart won’t let me. Hills become mountains and I scramble up them. The list goes on.
It’s restless. And not enough to recover and feel rejuvenated. I always wake feeling I want more and am usually in a pretty deep brain fog. Don’t talk to me until I have had a cold shower and coffee (which at these times you should try and avoid!)
5. The scientific signs.
As I said, I’m no scientist, but it doesn’t take one to know that what we do creates inflammation within us. At times, this will create inflammatory conditions that will show as red flags should you have blood tests or ASI tests done. THIS DOESN’T MEAN A DOCTOR PUTS YOU ON MEDICATION. I REPEAT, YOU DO NOT NEED MEDICATION. Most of these conditions WILL stabilize with the correct diet, rest and lifestyle. If they don’t, then you should seek professional help and consider other options.
If you start noticing any or all of these signs communicate with your coach (if you have one) and plan a few easy days until your signs start to turn around. Note, I said easier days. NOT days OFF. Sometimes taking full days off is not what we type A people need, but in extreme cases may be ok with doing so. Consider it a time of adaptation to come back stronger.
It’s important to recognize the signs and not take it out on others or ourselves. Don’t beat yourself up, but instead treat your body and mind to a few days of R&R. Eat well, sleep as much as you can, back the training off, take a mini break, go out with friends and have a good laugh. Your body & mind will thank you!