How much training is too much?


The human body is a wonderful piece of machinery but push it too far and things can unravel pretty quickly!  

I love getting out there and riding my bike all day, it’s great fun and there’s just something in seeing how far you can push the limits.  This approach has taught me a number of lessons over the years, it’s fair to say I would have much rather avoided a lot of them.  I vividly remember having a few out of body experiences while doing long rides with friends and thinking I was never going to make it to the end of the day.

Training load accumulates over time so imagine the impact on your body & mind if you went out and trained day in day out without paying any attention to how tired you were becoming.  I’ve done exactly that and believe me, it’s not a great space to be in!  Our physiology governs how much training load we can absorb before we need a rest.  Some of us are built to handle large loads, others aren’t.  We are all very individual and have different needs based on our uniqueness.

A little while ago I tried a little n=1 experiment.  Every year a group of us make the trip to Queenstown for the marathon.  It’s a great week.  A couple of us are usually lucky enough to go earlier and get 4 or 5 days of riding in.  This particular year I had done very little training, my fitness was lacking and bearing in mind we generally ride 100km - 150km a day with some pretty good hills I was on the back foot!  I decided to do some ‘crash’ training.  BIG MISTAKE!  I’ll admit I had a pretty good idea that if I managed to get through the four weeks training I had planned I’d be hanging on by the skin of my teeth for the Queenstown expedition.  I didn’t quiet expect things to unravel as quickly as they did though!  Here’s an idea of how it went…

I use Training Peaks and WK04 as platforms to build training programs and monitor fitness & health markers, they are great tools and add real value.  Among other insights I find the measure of Training Stress Balance (*TSB) a particularly interesting and useful one. 

Simply put it is an indicator of the ‘Form’ you are in, it’s expressed as a number.  The lower the number the more tired you are, or the lesser your form is.  From experience I know if my TSB is below ~-30 for a period of time I need a rest. 

This time round I decided I’d see what happened if I went a bit deeper in the pursuit of a quick fix for my poor fitness.  The first week was fine as I took a reasonably sensible approach to things and built to a TSB of ~-20.  The next two weeks I logged some serious miles and got my TSB to ~-60.  Dangerous territory I thought but I hadn’t broken down so why not get in a few more days solid training before having a rest.  Not to be!  I ended up with a TSB of -70!  I was in deep and was feeling it.  I had gone from being reasonably rested to absolutely strung out within the space of a few weeks.  I had shoved so much fatigue into my body it wasn’t funny. 

I flew to Queenstown in the hope I’d get through the week.  Not a chance, my body went into full shut down.  Instead of spending five magnificent days clocking up miles in gods zone I spent them on my back in bed sick as a dog!  Very rarely do I get sick but this had bitten me in the bum big time!  The human body is a wonderful piece of machinery but push it too far and things can unravel pretty quickly and this time round they did exactly that!

If you’ve got any questions about Training Stress Balance or would like to talk about endurance coaching options just send me an email or give me a call on 027 209 3514.

*TSB is calculated by subtracting fatigue from fitness

Paul Cadman