How to reliably assess if you are over-training.
Due to the nature and intensity of our training programs it is important to prevent over-training. Developing the ability to assess your readiness to train is a key skill for ensuring you are making the most of your program and giving your body the recovery time it needs to make the necessary adaptions.
There are a number of different tests to undertake which will give you a good idea of your readiness to train. Most are not very effective in isolation. But if the results of a number of different tests are considered together, then this will give you a relatively reliable assessment.
Some tests you may wish to consider are:
1. Subjective assessment (mood, energy levels, mental clarity, fatigue and soreness levels). We provide a journal with our online programs to record these metrics on a regular basis. The journal helps you to assess these variables over a month long period at a time. Sometimes this measure is enough for you to assess readiness however it can be misleading. Sometimes your subjective assessment will change after you’ve completed a thorough warm-up and have properly prepared the body for training. However, if you add these results to the following 4 tests outlined below, you may be able to make a reliable assessment before breakfast.
2. Resting heart rate (rHR). Measure your heart rate as soon as you wake in the morning before you get out of bed. Use your results to compare against your average rate. If your rHR is the same as or lower than your normal score then you are ready to train. If it is elevated (> 5 bpm) then it may indicate that more rest is required.
3. Bolt test. The Blood Oxygen Level Test (‘Bolt’) allows you to test your tolerance to CO2 in your bloodstream. When you conduct this test you can compare your results against previous results to assess whether your tolerance levels are above or below your average score. A low score, first thing in the morning, can indicate that your body is still recovering from previous sessions and it may be a good idea to rest. Here is a good link to explain the Bolt test and how to perform it: http://oxygenadvantage.com/measure-bolt/
4. Sit and reach test. This test is a measure of your ability to stretch your hamstrings and is a measure of your hamstring flexibility. A shorter than average score can also indicate that you may need to rest. To achieve consistency undertake this test under the same conditions every time. After waking in the morning and after you’ve measured your rHR and Bolt score would be a good time.
5. Body-weight measurement. It's a good idea to measure your bodyweight on a daily basis to see if there are any major deviations from day-to-day and over the period of a month. A chronic un-programmed loss of body-weight can mean you are overtraining.
It’s important to compare your scores against your previous test results not against the accepted norms for your demographic. They provide you with results measured against your average scores measured under the same testing conditions. Negative results across 4 of 5, or all 5 assessments can be a very good indication that you need more recovery time and may need to rest.