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Tip of the Week

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Tip of the Week

Postby natellerandi » Fri May 27, 2011 12:09 pm

Undertraining?

We hear a lot about avoiding overtraining. Yet, our goal as athletes is to always push the envelope and see how much we can squeeze out of ourselves without falling into that abyss of overtraining. To a certain extent this makes sense.

When I hear comments from people who are/were overtrained, they talk about how tired they feel in general. When they discuss their workouts, they talk about how they "sucked". But that's about as far as it goes. To be clear, when you're overtrained, there will be days you feel good, there will be days that you perform well. But the more deeply you fall into the abyss, the fewer and farther between those good days are. Even during poor days, you'll still be tired and panting and have most of the sensations of "working out hard" if you decide to challenge yourself. This is where something like a power meter can be really handy. If you track power, then you can see in real time that your output is quite a bit lower than normal. If you're overly fatigued, you may feel like you're killing yourself in your interval workout, but your power just will not be where it needs to be. Your HR sure might be (but even the HR can be suppressed when overtrained), but your power won't be.

So, what does overtraining have to do with undertraining? It's simple. To avoid overtraining, my suggestion is to strive for being slightly undertrained. Being undertrained can be defined by a lack of volume and/or a lack of intensity. The reason is that I think we as athletes get more out of ourselves than we realize during periods of challenging training. And, I believe we largely discount -- or forget -- the fact that the majority of us have been athletes the vast majority of our lives. All that stored up fitness doesn't just evaporate. It sticks around and we can draw upon it more than we know.

When I was preparing for the Tour of the Gila at the end of April (a 5-day, 325-mile mountainous stage race in southern New Mexico), I did a 2-day block of training one weekend. Day 1 went well and Day 2 not so much. The following weekend I did a similar 2-day block with significantly better results. The 3rd weekend I did a 3-day block and the results were absolutely stellar. In the span of 16 days, my fitness took 2 big steps forward. My point is that our bodies respond quickly to stimulus; they adapt to survive. We don't need a year of preparation to excel in a particular event. We can probably NOT be so focused over time and simply focus for a finite period of time -- 4-12 weeks max, depending on the nature of the event. In my own example, in the span of just over 2 weeks, I went from wondering what the heck I had gotten myself into, to knowing I would be able to attack the race and do well. From second thoughts to a high level of confidence.

I'm not saying that you can eat bon bons for 48 weeks and then focus for 4 weeks heading into a marathon or Ironman. I'm not suggesting athletic suicide here. What I am suggesting is that we try to temper our Type A personalities a bit and work on ebbing more than flowing. Allow for more relaxation day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month. Thinking out of the box can be as much about what you don't do as what you do end up doing.

Happy Training,
Nate Llerandi
natellerandi
 
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