Training for a big race or personal best? Don’t overdo it

Many recreational triathletes and runners often ramp up their training in hopes of getting a personal best or winning a race. But new research from the University of Guelph demonstrates that more isn’t always better.

Overload training may alter firing in the body’s sympathetic nerve fibres, which could hinder performance.

“The theory behind overload training is that you train to the point of complete exhaustion, so that when you rest and recover, you will be able to perform at a higher level than before,” says Alexandra Coates, a PhD student in human health and nutritional science and lead author of the study.

But the study, which involved recreational triathletes and cyclists, revealed that muscle sympathetic nerve activity, which constricts the muscle’s blood vessels and indicates stress in the body, increased in overtrained athletes.

“Athletes who followed a consistent training regime and didn’t have the same overload stress demonstrated improvements in their overall fitness and other markers of cardiovascular health,” says Coates, a triathlete.