Unscientific Markers of Triathlon Training Fatigue

If you are a triathlete, odds are you really like to train. For most of us, triathlon isn’t just a hobby, it’s a lifestyle choice. This level of commitment has both Pros and Cons; where you fall on the perspective spectrum is usually a function of how you view your current experience. But for all the goodness that our active lifestyle brings, there is also the potential for negative consequences.

I am not talking about the odd bike accident or freak injury, I am talking about building up the habits and expectations around exercise.

While I am a numbers guy, I have to confess I gave up being a data geek a few years ago. Tracking all of my workouts often took just as much time across a week as an entire session! Simply not worth my time…so I cut things back.

I personally track a few things to give myself a sense of the fatigue I am generating. These include training hours, hours of sleep, and my resting heart rate.

But as I go through another Ironman® training cycle I am reminded of all the other indicators that my training volume has tipped over to the excessive side. These aren’t scientific by any means, but they are just as valid as any data point. Scan your own training cycles and how you respond to make sure you aren’t doing more harm than good with all of your training!

My Mood Quickly Changes

There’s no doubt that when I am overtrained that I am grumpy. I have very little patience and can easily flip from Happy to Grumpy in a minute. With fatigue levels high and lower-than-usual blood sugar, being mere minutes away from an inevitable bonk have me on edge. As a result, I will find myself cutting other people short or simply being a bit jerky.

Just how much of a jerk depends on who you ask (!) and the level of my fatigue, but either way it’s pretty much not acceptable. The only thing worse than being away from the family for a few days of quality training is to come home and be a big old jerk!

Poor Eating Habits

As I fatigue, my focus on body composition becomes incredibly hard to sustain. The treats and extra food that were so easy to ignore mere weeks ago are now not only calling my name, they are practically jumping out of the fridge and pantry!

Not to mention that I will often eat simply to stay awake so I can continue getting work done. But eating extra food isn’t on the game plan, resulting in a higher weight and making me even grumpier (see above).

Low Quality of Sleep

Strangely enough, being really tired makes sleeping less fulfilling. This is typically because I am fighting the fatigue with products that contain sugar, which, if consumed too close to bed-time, can stop me from falling asleep. Not to mention that excessive training can affect your thyroid gland, leading to some very hot and sweaty nights of sleeping.

Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night simply to eat more, or because my legs have a slight twitch. Regardless of the reason, sometimes event sleep isn’t the easiest option!

Distracted At Work

Nothing makes me grumpier than a day of work where I get little done, and fighting fatigue makes for a challenging day. I have trouble focusing on tasks, can’t drive things to completion and end up pretty frustrated (see Grumpy above). The net is that even with a day off from training I might not be as productive as necessary.

How About You?

What signs show that you are cracking? When do you know it’s time to back off? Do you figure it out on your own, or does it take someone else to set you straight? Let us know in the comments below…

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AUTHOR

Coach P

All stories by: Coach P
4 comments
  • Steve Swanlund
    REPLY

    I find that when I am very fatigued, I have a hard time reasoning about workouts. If I get up in the morning to go swim and for so e reason the pool is closed or the lifeguards are late, I don’t know what to do. When a reasonable person would just hop on a stationary bike instead, I am lost or get all upset. I know that I haven’t exceeded my fatigue limit when I am in full control of my workouts, if I am really tired one morning and I can tell myself to take the morning off I know that I am OK.

    • patrick
      REPLY

      @Steve, you’ve captured it perfectly. The more fatigued you get, the less objective you can be about your workouts — just when you need your mind to help you out, it’s “checked out” and that’s when things can get pretty dicey. Thanks for sharing!

  • Steve Swanlund
    REPLY

    I find that when I am very fatigued, I have a hard time reasoning about workouts. If I get up in the morning to go swim and for so e reason the pool is closed or the lifeguards are late, I don’t know what to do. When a reasonable person would just hop on a stationary bike instead, I am lost or get all upset. I know that I haven’t exceeded my fatigue limit when I am in full control of my workouts, if I am really tired one morning and I can tell myself to take the morning off I know that I am OK.

    • patrick
      REPLY

      @Steve, you’ve captured it perfectly. The more fatigued you get, the less objective you can be about your workouts — just when you need your mind to help you out, it’s “checked out” and that’s when things can get pretty dicey. Thanks for sharing!

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