One of the trickiest parts of being an athlete in my opinion is when to train and when to rest.
It’s not as simple as picking 5-6 training days and 1-2 rest days for example. This may be insufficient training to one athlete and excessive training for another.
Alternatively, the same athlete may find this schedule perfect one week and the next they will show signs of Over Training Syndrome (OTS) due to other external stressors.
Creating the perfect training schedule
So how do you create the perfect schedule for consistent performance and steady improvement?
This will be different to all athletes and it’s up to the athlete and their coach (if they have one) to be aware of the signs and symptoms of OTS by listening to their body and adjusting their training accordingly.
Generally speaking, athletes train to increase performance. Performance increases are achieved through increased training loads. Increased loads are tolerated only through interspersed periods of rest and recovery — this is training periodization.
Anna training for a climbing event. Image taken via @anna.davey on Instagram.
OTS signs and symptoms
Here are some things to look out for, which could point to OTS in an individual.
- Poor performance
- Mood changes
- Weight loss
- Loss of motivation
- Heavy, sore and stiff muscles
Contributing factors to OTS
Some of these factors may contribute to OTS.
- Increased training load without sufficient recovery time
- Excessive number of competitions
- Sleep disturbances
- Stressors in personal life (work, family and relationships)
Anna during a training session. Image taken via @anna.davey on Instagram.
I think I’m over training what can I do?
Here are some suggestions to standardize your training and avoid OTS.
- Periodization of training
- Tapering for competitions
- Adjust training volumes and intensity
- Ensure adequate calories
- Ensure adequate hydration
- Ensure adequate sleep
- Ensure adequate carbohydrates
- See supplementation below
For a in depth analysis of signs, symptoms and contributory factors to OTS along with testing for diagnosis see this study.
Supplements which may help reduce effects of OTS
If you’re a competitive athlete ensure you’re using HASTA certified supplements. Image taken via @anna.davey on Instagram.
How I avoid OTS
I’m in a tricky position where I am often working full time as a lawyer and training 5-6 days a week for climbing.
Sometimes I just burn out and must take an extra rest day or mix up my sessions. For example, if I had a 2-hour session scheduled for Wednesday but I’m feeling abnormally sore and fatigued from my Tuesday session and work, I will change that session to a rest day or a 45-minute session. I would also decrease my next session length, so I can get back to quality sessions making progress.
If I am not working at all (when I am close to a major competition I take weeks off work) I’ll train twice a day, 5 days a week and feel no affects of OTS. Two weeks before a competition I taper my training. This means cutting the length of sessions in half and decreasing the intensity.
I haven’t experimented with periodization; however, I have seen good results where athletes do a 4-week power program followed by a full week of rest. Then an 4-week endurance program followed by a week of rest.
The main advice I give to performance athletes is to eat well, listen to your body, sleep well, use supplements for support (ensure they’re HASTA certified) and don’t be afraid to take a whole rest week every now and then.
Remember, training temporarily makes you weaker and then it’s the rest which makes you stronger.