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Knowing When to Take a Rest Week
By:  Zoe Braul   (2008/08/01)


The weather is beautiful and the days are long. The summer months can make it tempting to pull "epic" workouts more than your training program prescribes. However, this can lead to burnout very quickly. I have been experiencing some mild burnout myself and will share some of my insight about the annoyance of burnout. I have been noticing that lately I have been extremely tired and during every training session I find myself "bonking" almost immediately. Very briefly, bonking describes the condition when glycogen stores in the liver and muscles become depleted. There can be a number of reasons why an athlete may feel run down. Luckily, I've only been feeling like this for a couple of weeks, so it's nothing serious. Some reasons for feeling burnout can be:

• Nutrition: Not eating enough food is one great way to ensure bonking during every workout. It may seem pretty simple to eat enough food (duh, 3 meals and snacks, right?) but the busier you are, the easier it is drop the ball on food front. I spoke to XC Ottawa teammate Megan and she suggested eating 3 or 4 snacks during the day in addition to the 3 square meals. It is especially important to eat a snack before training to prevent bonking. The kinds of food you eat are important too. I'm no expert on nutrition, so I recommend reading Sheila's nutrition articles.

I have started keeping a food journal so I could track how much food I eat. I found it really eye opening! I thought that I was eating enough until I actually looked at my journal for the last couple of days. As soon as I made a point of eating lots of snacks in between meals, I felt way more energetic.

• Overtraining: Hopefully if you are following your training program (if you have one), you shouldn't be feeling overtrained. This said, however, the human body is hard to predict. If you are feeling tired, you may need to lower your volume and intensity for a week or until you feel better. Also, leave enough time  between hard workouts to give your body a chance to recover. For example, don’t do a 4 hour bike ride the evening before a morning interval session. A good way to tell if you are overtraining is by measuring your morning resting heart rate. If it is higher than normal, you could be getting sick or overtrained.

• Sleep: This is a pretty obvious one. Not sleeping enough will make you feel tired. Also, sleep is when your body recovers.

• Iron Deficiency: Another reason for fatigue and bonking could be iron deficiency. Although it is most common in female endurance athletes, every athlete’s iron levels should be tested.

Taking care of yourself is the first step to successful training, especially in the off-season. Happy training and remember that your training program is only a guide.

I'm discovering that nutritious food (and enough of it!) is critical for endurance athletes. Here's a meal I made while home in Vancouver.

Interesting Reading. . .
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