Monitoring Training Loads Pt. 1 – Wednesday Wisdom

In this month’s series of Wednesday wisdom posts, we are going to look at monitoring training loads and how this might relate to your practice as a functional training coach or even as a functional training athlete if you are training for competition.  How many times have you heard the phrase “Go hard, or Go home”? If like me, you have heard this phrase many times, and I am sure there are many clients and trainers out there, who consider this their mantra! However, “how hard is too hard”? Alternatively, put another way, how hard is too hard for which individual? Is training success and failure intrinsically linked to training intensity? As a coach, how do you balance training and recovery? As you can see, there are a few critical questions we need to both answers, if we are going to get this balance right, for each of our clients.

In answering the questions above, we need first to understand the six-stages of fatigue a client may experience following a training session, which has been defined by Meeusen and colleagues (2013).

Depending on the level of experience your client has, and of course your current training goal, you may target a fatigue level between stage 1-3, which means your client’s performance level should not decline, providing they have at least 24/36 hours rest between sessions. However, what happens, if you train a client daily, without paying attention to session load management? You risk moving your client into stages 4-6, which can lead to:

  • Increased risk of infection, including colds and flu’s
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Mood disturbances
  • Decrease in appetite
  • If severe enough, symptoms of cardiac fatigue during exercise.

While elite athletes are often deliberately taken into stages 4-5 for very short periods of time, the majority of our everyday clients should never really be taken beyond stage 3, mainly if the training goal includes improvement in performance measures such as increased strength, power, cardiovascular fitness, etc. If your clients exercise performance does not return to baseline following a 24/36 hour rest – say, for example, they performed a certain number of reps, at a specific load on Monday and Wednesday.  They are not able to complete the same amount of reps at that same load, and this trend continues on Friday, then it may well be safe to say the client has progressed to stage 4 (functional overreaching). Stage 4 Fatigue is typified by very high perceived fatigue (clients reports to feel very tired), and recovery from this stage may take several days to several weeks! The take-home message in this article is, as a trainer and coach if you’re not monitoring your client’s training loads, and daily exercise performance; how can you manage their fatigue and therefore help them achieve their goals? Over the next few articles, we will look at some simple ways you can monitor training loads and symptoms of fatigue.

Reference:

Meeusen, R., Duclos, M., Foster, C., Fry, A., Gleeson, M., Nieman, D., & Urhausen, A. (2013). Prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of the overtraining syndrome: joint consensus statement of the European College of Sports Science and the American College of Sports Medicine. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 45(1), 186-205.

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