Sunday, January 31, 2016

Preventing Overreaching: Are You Paying Attention?

Each year one of my goals is to attend a camp with a top coach. Last year, I had the opportunity to attend Coach Darren Smith's (aka Coach Daz) camp in San Diego. Darren has had great success with Olympic level athletes. I have noticed that Olympic distance stars are pushing the performance envelope as they dabble in long course. I wanted to know why.

The most important lesson I received at Darren's camp was the value of assessment outside of training. Each athlete checks in with him daily on a list of parameters. What was fascinating to me was their level of honesty. These athletes do our sport for a living. They have nothing to gain by pushing themselves over the edge. And they have plenty to lose if they fall prey to illness, injury and burnout.

I now use the same assessment with the athletes I coach, especially in big training blocks. And I use it with myself. I have made some modifications to the list based on my personal experience.

I ask athletes to rate the following:

  • Sleep
  • Appetite
  • Night Sweats
  • Throat/Glands
  • Anxiety
  • Heart Rate
  • Clumsiness
  • Aches and Pains

I am looking for trends in responses. If an athlete has two or more areas of concern, I will probe why. Areas of concern can be due to training stress, life or both. I make adjustments to their plans based on their responses.

The goal is to have the athlete training at the highest level and knowing when to pull back if they start to become overreached. For small units and women, we have more leeway to tread into overreaching. A few days of consolidation and we can return to training. For big units and men, overreaching requires a longer recovery period.

The most important way to prevent any issues? Proper fueling. Consume the majority of your carbs when training. A well fueled athlete can train long and hard.

Sleep is almost as important as fueling. I am looking for athletes to get as much sleep as possible at night. If their schedules allows for daily naps, I advocate that as well.

I am a high volume and now high intensity athlete. My goals require creeping up to the abyss of overreaching. I can only accomplish my goals if I assess my progress each day. The warning signs are simple but often ignored.

Are you paying attention?


Sue started her triathlon journey with a 50 pound weight loss and continues as a multiple Kona qualifier. In 2013, she was named the Overall Ironman All World Athlete Champion in her age group and in 2014 won her age group at Ironman Texas. As a successful entrepreneur, she believes that, “You can run your business like your training and your training like your business!” As a coach (USAT Certified), she helps athletes to develop success in all areas of their lives: family, health and work. She blogs regularly at fewoman.com. You can find her on Twitter @fewoman.
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