I think we all know that athletes need to hard in order to improve. However, many athletes new to endurance sports may not appreciate that adaptive training gains can only be maximised to a threshold point.
Beyond this point, additional training will not produce further performance gains and could lead to overtraining and athlete ‘burn-out’.
A certain level of fatigue is needed in order to activate essential physiological repair mechanisms. With adequate recovery, the fatigue will disappear and adaptation will occur making your stronger and fitter! Sometimes, as we begin to increase training, we may find ourselves trying to balance an increased training load and inadequate recovery which could result in overtraining. Your training load is influenced by the amount of training (volume) and intensity.
There are a number of different ways to try and quantify training load including real-time observation/measurements, physiological monitoring (heart rate, blood lactate concentrations and oxygen consumption) during training sessions and obtaining a subjective estimate of an athlete’s training load. A quick and easy way for us all to track our training load is to use a diary to record how we felt after each session.
Using a simplified exertion scale, where 0 = rest and 10 = maximal effort, rate your effort (how hard you thought you were working during the session) and multiply it by the length, in minutes, of your training session.
This will give you a session rate of perceived exertion (s-RPE) which can be added to all your other sessions that week to provide you with an overall training load for the week. This can be used as a tool ensure that you are adhering to a periodised training programme and benefiting from the cyclical recovery weeks. It can also you detect when you may not coping with your training because you tend to submit higher s-RPE scores for similar sessions carried out in the previous week or month.
This is such a simple way to help ensure you are optimising your training you'd be silly not to give it a try!