As the fall approaches, I have once again found myself looking back on the summer and reflecting on the things that went well and the things that did not. One thing I spend a lot of time reflecting on the most is how well I was able to absorb the training that I did.
Ski training, especially during the summer training, is a game of fine lines. How much harder can I push this interval before blowing up? How much further forward can I get my hips without faceplanting? How much training volume can my body handle before I get into the realm of overtraining?
This last question in particular is one I have paid a lot of attention to. Having a robust fitness base is extremely important, and training a lot of volume, usually in the summer, is when skiers have the best opportunity to build that fitness. However, it can also be where we get into trouble. As a junior skier, I thought more was always better. I couldn’t always win intervals, but I could always do longer runs or add an extra session each week, and I thought all that training volume would equal faster skiing. To a certain extent this is true; you need a certain amount of foundational fitness to be competitive, but I would often push myself beyond what was productive, leaving me feeling fatigued, sluggish, and unable to complete quality training. As I continue to experiment and learn how to train effectively, I have learned that knowing when to back off can be just as productive as adding hours.
The end of a long ride with former Middlebury teammate Avery Ellis at Kingdom Trails.
A long mountain race in Idaho.
To help me do this, I rely heavily on my training log, where I keep a detailed record of my workouts, training zones, morning heart rate, and workout comments. This year, at GRP Coach Pepa’s suggestion, I added a column to my training log where I could rate how I felt during the session using a color coded scale of 1-5 (5 being great [green] and 1 being horrible [red]). I base mine on a combination of how I felt physically (were my legs tired? Did I feel energetic and quick? etc) and how I felt mentally (was I focused? What was my mood?). I have found this tool to be extremely helpful in making quick assessments on how I am handling my training, and if there are any early indications of fatigue that I need to pay attention to.
Having the data doesn’t mean that I always listen to what it is telling me. I am going to share with you an example from my last big block of training where the data in my training log showed clear signs that I was headed towards a cliff. And instead of listening to what my body was telling me, I walked right off that cliff.
Below are a few screenshots of my training log from the past 3 weeks. Can you tell where I should have backed off based only on the ratings for how I felt during each session? [SRt stands for ‘session rating’, and mood refers to my overall feel during the day, not just training].
The first week was the end of a big volume block, which included a couple weeks at home training in Sun Valley. I had only planned to do 22 hours but ended up going to Kingdom Trails in Burke and mountain biking a ton. I felt good most of the week despite the bigger hours.
This second week, we start to see more yellow, which is normal for the first couple days after a big block of training. However, by the end of the week, I was still not feeling very energetic.
I started this week off feeling tired, sluggish and just generally cruddy. Instead of dialing it back on Monday after a consecutive days the week before in the “yellow” I tried to push through. On Thursday evening I had a sore throat, headache, and was exhausted. I ended up sleeping 12 hours the next three nights. After a negative covid test, I returned to some very easy training on Saturday and took another full off day on
Sunday. This week, I feel energetic and fresh, and a bit annoyed at myself for not taking the rest when I knew I needed it.
Even though I understand the principle of what it means to overtrain, I still struggle to apply it every day. In a positive way, the “more is better” mindset drives me to do another rep, another interval, another hour, or another workout. But it also sneakily drives me to add unnecessary “fluff” hours to my week and ignore clear signs that I need to back it off. I find that keeping a detailed training log is helpful to keep track of how I’m feeling and see patterns of fatigue before they manifest in sickness or injury. It also helps keep me accountable and gives me a record to learn from.
Each person has a unique body and a unique response to training so I highly encourage you, if you don’t already, to add a section in your training log where you can keep track of whatever indicator of overtraining you find the most informative, whether that is morning heart rate, mood, session ratings, etc. and listen to what it is telling you! Your body, mind and your coach will thank you for it!
An energized and fun distance ski with the Craftsbury GRP this week. Amazing what listening to your body can do!