Remember that your training plan, including your weekly workout schedule, is but a guide to keep you heading toward your target goals. While using this guide, you also need to pay attention to how your body responds to the training and make adjustments along the way.
As discussed earlier, gains from your training actually occur during the recovery periods between the harder training sessions. If you pay attention to your recovery and adjust your training when you’re not getting enough, then you can avoid overtraining and stay on the right trajectory toward your goals. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you monitor your training and recovery.
With any higher intensity interval work — especially VO2max intervals or LT cruise intervals — your aim should be to leave the workout with something left in the tank. In other words, you do not want to leave it all on the track in any given workout. Apply a sufficient stimulus to trigger a response; then back off and allow your body to gain the adaptation. That will allow you to return a few days later to train some more, rather than needing to turn that second workout into a recovery day.
For example, let’s say you’re doing 5 x 3-min VO2max intervals. You hit the first three consistently, but you struggle on the fourth one, turning in a much slower time. Rather than fighting through a fifth one, call it a workout and cool down. You’ve achieved what the workout called for and it’s time to begin your recovery.
Pay attention to your sleep and eating patterns. Your body rebuilds during rest and sleep, and your body needs nutrients to grow stronger as it adapts to the training stress.
Endurance athletes — both men and women — can be at risk for a condition that scientists have termed relative energy deficiency in sport (RED-S). RED-S results from not eating enough calories during training and can result in low energy levels and endocrine dysfunction. Read more about the warning signs of RED-S and be sure to avoid them with a healthy diet that complements the increased caloric needs of the endurance training you’re doing.