Breaking the paradigm!
As endurance athletes, we’ve been led to believe that volume is key;
As a former professional triathlete, I was in the fortunate position to be able to train as much as I wanted, so I did. Working with previous coaches, I averaged 18-25 hours a week across the 3 disciplines performing this with relative ease. Unfortunately I was also working part-time between 15-20 hours a week, not respecting the toll this took on my recovery.
Every 4-5 weeks, my coaches would step the training down for around 5-7 days to allow recovery and therefore adaptation. The problem was I’d dug a hole so deep due to work and training, I wasn’t going to be able to recover and adapt.
“The training you complete is only as good as that you can recover from” - Me!
I wish I had the foresight to appreciate this! All that training I completed was a total waste of time and energy, something I come across far too often with endurance athletes = the Endurance Paradigm.
You can train and recover using the scientific principles of Functional overreaching or maintain the Endurance Paradigm method resulting in Non-functional overreaching.
Functional overreaching is when the stress we subject ourselves to can be recovered from, it serves a purpose! Following a training block with an appropriate de-load/adaptation period (around weeks 4-5 in a training cycle), we adapt and super-compensate to the demands training has placed upon us. When we start the next cycle, we begin from a higher level of fitness compared to when we initiated the previous phase (when structured correctly).
Non-functional overreaching, also known overtraining/under-recovery syndrome is when the stress we subject ourselves to is either too great to recover from or we don’t give ourselves enough time to adapt. As such, all the training we’ve undertaken in the previous cycle has served no purpose, it’s non-functional and this is the Endurance Paradigm.
Overtraining/under-recovery can also have other side-effects including a lack of desire to train, inability to perform the scheduled session, unexplained soreness and frequently being run down / ill.
Why the Endurance Paradigm needs to change!
It’s important to realise that training isn’t our only source of stress. Work, family, relationships, environment, quantity / quality of sleep, nutrition and many of other factors will also affect your response to training. You can’t train like a pro and work a full-time job, at least, not for long.
It’s vital to establish a Training-Life balance, this has become my ethos! Failure to do so will take us down the path of non-functional overreaching meaning we’ll never reach our true potential!
So how much is too much? This depends solely on the individual! We can measure training stress score (TSS) to calculate overall volume using Intensity and Time but whereas one athlete might be able to tolerate a weekly schedule of 8 hours / 400 TSS points, another might be able to tolerate 12 hours and 700 TSS points. This is also greatly influenced by those stressors outside of training.
Without appreciating these stressors, prescribing a training plan regardless of it’s scientific principles or structure is not going to be optimal.
I have recently returned to triathlon training, undertaking around 8-12 hours a week and whilst my performance isn’t quite where it used to be, it’s only a few percent below which I’m happy with. This is no longer the focus of my life and I can maintain my career and relationships outside of sport whilst participating in a few new activities too. This is how it should be for you!
Training shouldn’t be a chore or a source of conflict with friends and family, it should be balanced in such a way you can complete it, enjoy it, get fitter and keep life going outside of its world!
Interested in breaking the paradigm?
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