Training stresses your body’s physiology.

For example, weight training causes micro tears in your muscles as they work hard to resist a load. Endurance training, on the other hand, challenges your heart, lungs and blood vessels to deliver oxygen-rich blood to the working muscles for sustained energy production.

For optimal training adaptation, two things need to happen. First, the level of applied stress must challenge your physiology appropriately. In other words, the right amount of overload must be applied.

For continued development, this overload is required time and time again. And second, you must allow adequate recovery for your body to ‘rebuild’ itself fitter and stronger than it was before.

However, if more training stress is applied before your body has a chance to recover properly, a downward spiral of overtraining, fatigue, performance plateaus and injury may begin. More is not necessarily better.

For most youth athletes, learning to balance training stress with the right amount of recovery is one of the hardest things to do. So, with this in mind, here are some things to help you get the most from your training without doing too much.

  1. Record your training load. This doesn’t have to be complicated. Using a diary, write down the number of hours you spend training as well as the frequency and intensity of your sessions.
  1. Monitor how you feel. Ask yourself these simple questions before each training session: How am I feeling? How motivated am I to train? Record your answers in your diary. Get a free template to monitor your training here.
  1. Track your performance. Every few weeks, use a controlled training session to measure your performance to know how you’re progressing.
  1. Adjust your training load. If you find your motivation to train is dropping, you’re feeling tired or moody a lot, or your performance is stagnating, it’s a sure sign you’re overtraining. So, adjust your schedule by decreasing the amount of time you’re spending training, the frequency or the intensity of your sessions.

The Importance of Sleep

There’s one more thing to consider. If you’re struggling to cope with your current training load or not getting the performance improvements you’re after, ask yourself how much sleep you’re getting. Sleep is the time your body adapts to the physical strain you’re putting it under. It’s also the driving force behind brain development, which is critical to learning and skill acquisition. So a lack of good quality sleep can hold you back significantly.

Here are a few tips for getting the quality and quantity of sleep you need:

  • Aim for nine hours a night
  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day
  • Avoid caffeine at least eight hours before bed
  • Create a cool (~17 degrees is best) and dark sleeping environment
  • Avoid using devices one hour before bed
  • Can’t sleep? Don’t lie there fighting it. Get up and move around a bit, read a book, or practice a slow and deep breathing technique. Then, jump back into bed and try again.