Overreaching – training within your limits

My Training at your highest possible potential, the most often, is the key to achieving increases in athletic performance. Recovery plays a very important role in this equation. Recovering properly from a block of training or a long event is sometimes overlooked due to the nature of an athlete. Many athletes want to push it too far. Too much training and poor recovery are a few of the biggest mistakes made by many athletes. Learning how far to push your individual limit with training is the key to continual, long term gains.

Concept of overreaching

To improve as an athlete, you need to flirt with overtraining. You will have days when you are physically and mentally tired from training. You may have days where you can not complete a workout, not being able to reach the target heart rate zones, or at least mentally know that it is not a good idea to reach the target heart rate zones. This is called overreaching. Overreaching is the first stage of overtraining and is a common part of most training programs. Overreaching is much easier to recover from, compared to a full blown over trained state, and usually requires a few days of complete rest. This is how you push your limits but most importantly, find your limits. To find your limits, you must experiment at times. Training after big races, achieving the overreaching stage after the first or second week of a training block is a sign that recovery may be needed soon or you risk pushing into a full blown over trained state, where losses in power may occur with a severe lack of motivation.

Knowing when you have overreached

There are many signs of an overtrained athlete and they include decreased strength, decreased performance, sluggish heart rate responses to intensity, and increased breath at sub maximal efforts, depression, insomnia, chronic fatigue, apathy, irritability and an increase susceptibility to illness. Upper respiratory infections are very common with over trained athletes.  It is hard to realize this is happening since this happens over time. Once overtrained, the only thing to do is rest. It is very wise to take four to five days of complete rest before you return to exercise and perform an easy workout. If you feel bad during the easy run or ride, after four or five days of rest, then you need more recovery. Take a few more days of recovery and wait until you feel eager to get back on the bike or take a run. When you start having fun again, you are becoming recovered.


Recovery is as individual as it gets. The best way to judge recovery is through the use of heart rates, perceived exertion and mental attitude towards training. Sluggish heart rates and high perceived exertions while performing efforts are a few sure signs of fatigue. When recovered, your overall perceived exertions should be low. Your heart rates should also respond to intensities and your breathing should be in control. Each person will recover from a block of training or a long race in a different way. Some may recover fully, quickly, while others may take a longer time.


You should feel good while out on the trails or roads. It is supposed to be a fun activity for you to enjoy. If it is not fun then, most likely, you will stop. That’s not the goal. Approaching training with a smart focus and built in rest periods will help you have more fun, more often. Taking rest at the appropriate time will have you working on a higher level of ability more often. This will result in a continually improving performance and a happier athlete. Work hard, rest harder, and always have fun!

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