Our ability to perform optimally and adapt optimally to a given training session varies day to day. Stress, sleep, nutrition, and recovery modalities all interact to determine our “readiness to train”.
Training Readiness - an athlete’s immediate physical and mental state, primarily influenced by genetics, prior training, sleep, stress, and nutrition
Stress - the physical and psychological response to a stimulus that is perceived as threatening or beyond the individual’s ability to cope
“STRESS, is STRESS, is STRESS!”
Our bodies require a stress stimuli in order to create adaptation and get better. We must be aware of the cumulative effect of all stressors including practice, weight training, mental stress, nutritional stress etc.
Cortisol - the body's primary “stress” hormone is one of the physical manifestations of psychological stress. Cortisol is essential for optimal function and performance however; excess levels of cortisol can be detrimental to recovery from exercise.
It is important to understand that training while experiencing high levels of stress negatively impacts your readiness to train.
Methods of Monitoring Readiness
Physical Capacities: Vertical Jump, Broad Jump, Lateral Bound, Multiple-Jump Tests, Olympic Lifting Variation 1-3 RMs, Major Lift 1-10+ RMs, Continuous Conditioning Tests (e.g. 12-Minute, 6-Minute or 2-Minute Run, Bike or Swim), Intermittent Conditioning Tests (Yo-Yo Intermittent Recovery Tests, Beep Tests, Repeat Shuttle Tests, etc.), and Cardiac Parameters (General: Resting Heart Rate, Heart Rate Variability; During the Test: Average Heart Rate, Maximum Heart Rate, 60s Heart Rate Recovery).
Fuel State: This is tougher to measure without blood, urine, and/or saliva tests, but a 3-Day Food Log will give you a pretty good indication of what the athletes are eating on a regular basis.
Readiness: Resting Heart Rate, HRV, Daily Recovery Questionnaires (See Below), Perceived Exertion Questionnaires, OmegaWave, PUSH Band
A great low tech option for coaches are pre-session readiness questionnaires and post-session perceived exertion questionnaires.
Overreaching & Overtraining: What happens if we aren’t aware of readiness?
Since we know that stress is necessary for adaptation, overreaching is acknowledged by many in sports science to be a necessity of training which will result in greater increases in strength, speed, size etc. when utilized correctly. However, there is a fine line between functional and non-functional overreaching; the failure to know that line can have dire consequences for both athlete performance and athlete health.
It is the job of all involved (coaches, athletes and parents) to look for and recognize the signs of overreaching, or worse overtraining.
Some signs of overreaching leading to overtraining include a constant sense of being tired, persistent heavy/sore muscles, disruption in normal sleep pattern, increased incidents of illness, demotivation and depression. This state of being will also open athletes up to a greater risk of injury and an overall decrease in performance.
Some things you can do if you are in an over reached state?
- Eat Well
- Work on low level technical skills
- Low intensity, low-volume strength training
- Self-Myofascial Release (foam roll, therapy ball etc.)
- Progressive Muscular Relaxation (PMR)
The best way to avoid overreaching or overtraining and the injuries/performance detriments that come along with it is to be proactive! Having a flexible and adaptable development plan will ensure that athletes remain healthy and can compete at their highest potential.
At Prototype Sports Performance, our science based, observation driven programming works along with the education of our athletes on the importance of mindfulness and a process oriented approach, to achieve maximum training results without the setbacks of non-functional overreaching, or worse the injuries related to overtraining!
About the Author
Justin Vince is the founder of Prototype Sports Performance in Mississauga, ON. In addition to being a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Justin is also a member of the Ontario College of Teachers. Justin is passionate learner and coach, who also enjoys picking up heavy things.