Managing Overreaching and Preventing Overtraining

Managing Overreaching and Preventing Overtraining

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Overtraining is over diagnosed by cyclists, you are probably experiencing overreaching instead, but that’s not to say that they aren’t both serious and need to be managed. In this episode, I go through 7 ways to recognise overreaching, what to do about it if you think you are overreaching, and how you can manage your training load using any one of the 6 popular training programs.

Riders experience minor fatigue and acute reductions in performance as a consequence of the normal training process.


Overtraining is a physical, behavioural, and emotional condition that occurs when the volume and intensity of an individual’s exercise exceeds their recovery capacity. Or to put it another way, it’s an imbalance between training and recovery, exercise and exercise capacity, stress and stress tolerance.


Where stress is the sum of training and non-training stress factors. It is difficult to distinguish between adaptation and maladaptation to stressors.

What Causes Overtraining?


Recommendations for markers of overreaching and overtraining are hard to make because the overtraining research is so scattered and non-conclusive.


There are two theories floating around the science world:


1. Single stress – training load-recovery imbalance.


2. Multi-stressors – physical, emotional, psychological, and social.


I will link to an interesting paper on personality factors influencing stress appraisal. Which floats my boat but may be a bit dry for some.
Basically, overtraining remains poorly understood and understudied.
Perhaps that’s why there happens to be an overdiagnosis of overtraining by riders. What most people will experience is overreaching, which is, training a little bit beyond your capabilities. We all know this right? That training has to be more intense or more volume than before, or both, in order to create a greater adaptation.


Anyway, today I’m going to talk about overreaching instead of overtraining.


Overreaching describes the short-term overload that can be managed within a few days. However, overreaching can develop into overtraining if the athlete does not mitigate the factors that caused the over-reaching or fails to allocate proper recovery time.

7 Signs of Overreaching


What follows is my basic list of 7 signs that indicate you may be overreaching. Some are objective measures, while others derive from my own personal experiences with overreaching.


1. A 10 to 20 percent increase in training volume over a 3 or 4-week block
2. Combining two hard variables in one training session
3. Two or three high-intensity workouts in a single week
4. Overload in life stressors outside of cycling
5. Reduced sleep
6. Inadequate nutritional elements in your diet
7. Too many Events in your racing season
If you have these warning signs…what do you do?
You may have nodded your head to a couple of those in the list. If so, but you’re still unsure it’s good to test out your body in a modified workout. If you are doing intervals I would do a 5 minutes warm-up, then try out a 5-minute steady state interval at your FTP or threshold HR. If you hit that number then I would give the workout a shot. Remembering that the first two efforts may vary in output, so base your assessment on your overall performance.


If you cannot make your numbers on even one effort, or once you push into your workout then take two days off, and do light workouts for 3 more days.


If that doesn’t change anything, then take up to 2 weeks off.


If you still do not feel better, you should see your primary-care doctor and mention that you are concerned about overtraining. Or, you might want to seek out a physician who specializes in sports medicine because recovery from overtraining can take months to years…


Tech, Hacks & Products Section


When I talk about monitoring your overreached state, we don’t just have to rely on waiting to recognise the signs mentioned below. It all comes down to balancing out your training load and recovery.


I have spoken in the past about how a power meter can help in this, especially the concepts developed by Hunter and Coggan.


The following hacks are Tools to optimize your training load and related recovery. To help you find the edge and get as close as possible without going over it.


There is a point of diminishing returns related to training which can be hard to judge if you’re self-coached and no one is monitoring you.


Here are 6 programs and their Stress Scoring Systems to monitor yourself by quantifying training load. One thing to note though, this is cycling only…it would be great to quantify your total life’s load: So factor those elements and stressors in as well.


Polar Personal Trainer: Training Load


Training Peaks & WKO+

  • TSS (Training Stress Score)
  • CTL (Chronic Training Load)
  • ATL (Acute Training Load)
  • TSB (Training Stress Balance


Cycling Analytics 

  • STS (Short Term Stress)
  • LTS (Long Term Stress)
  • SB Stress Balance


Golden Cheetah

  • Bike Score
  • Short Term Stress (STS) = ATL
  • Long Term Stress (LTS) = CTL



  • Weighted Average Power
  • Training Load
  • Intensity
  • Power Curve




Photo Credit: ULFBODIN on Flickr


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One Response to Managing Overreaching and Preventing Overtraining

  1. Enjoy catching up on your podcast, but I would recommend you check out a software called Sporttracks: With the right plugins (training load/fit plan) you can monitor TRIMP/TSS TSB CTL ATL and weight, sleep etc. I even believe you can get a chart with all those things at the same time. And for what you get it is quite cheap.

    Cheers from Sweden

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Build fitness on a realistic schedule with this time-saving planner.

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Build fitness on a realistic schedule with The Weekly Workout Stack™

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