The understanding of overreaching, overtraining, and the importance of finding a balance in training has evolved significantly over the years. In the past, I often faced challenges related to overtraining without even realizing it or having the necessary knowledge to address it effectively. The concept of overreaching, which involves pushing the body to a temporary state of fatigue and performance decline followed by proper recovery, was not widely recognized or understood.
As a swimmer, K-College I unknowingly experienced overtraining syndrome, which hindered my ability to reach my full potential. When I started triathlon in 1992, for many years I did not have adequate fueling and did not balance training load to incorporate recovery. I would show up to races “fit and fatigued”
Functional overreaching is a deliberate and planned phase of training where an athlete intentionally increases training load via volume and intensity for a defined period. The goal is to create a temporary state of fatigue and performance decline to stimulate adaptations in the body leading to improvements in endurance, strength and speed achieving a higher level of performance and fitness.
Non-functional overreaching occurs when an athlete continues to add training load without adequately recovery and is characterized by prolonged and significant declines in performance, persistent fatigue, and an increased risk of injury or illness.
One reason I became a coach to to help athletes not make the same mistakes I did and to learn the delicate balance between training stress and recovery. Guiding athletes to find the border of overreaching without crossing into overtraining territory. This involves periodization, careful monitoring of training load and implementing proper rest and recovery strategies based on each athletes previous experience, time available to train and goals. Coaching requires a deep understanding of an athlete’s physical and mental states, ongoing communication, and adjustments to training plans based on feedback and observations. By finding the right balance, athletes can maximize their potential and achieve optimal performance without falling into the trap of overtraining.
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