Are You Overtraining?

There’s a fine line between pushing yourself to be in top physical condition and overtraining. How do we know when we’re getting too close to that line and need to back off a little to give our body a little extra rest? In the book Sport Physiology For Coaches by Brian J. Sharkey and Steven E. Gaskill, they give an easy and accurate test called the Fatigue Index that you can administer yourself to know when you are accumulating fatigue.

Importance of Testing Yourself

The results of this test closely correlate to your body’s immune function. As the fatigue index increases, so does your risk for depressed immune function and upper respiratory infections. As any athlete knows, getting sick is the last thing we want, so it’s important to test yourself frequently; but it’s almost more important to take training down a notch and prescribe rest when needed.

Testing Materials

  • Stair step (preferably 8 inches)
  • Stop watch
  • Paper and pencil
  • Heart rate monitor (optional)

How To Self-Administer the Test

This test should be performed when healthy to establish a baseline to gauge subsequent tests off of.

  • Test should be administered first thing in the morning, before eating or drinking.
  • Sit quietly for 3-5 minutes so your heart rate can stabilize.
  • Take your resting heart rate at the wrist for 10 seconds and record it.
  • Start your stop watch and begin stepping. The pattern should go as follows: step up with one foot, then the other. Step down with the first foot, then with the second. This pattern should take 2 seconds for a total of 30 steps in one minute.
  • Stop when you’ve reached one minute of stepping and immediately take your post-exercise heart rate for 10 seconds.
  • Sit down immediately following taking your heart rate and relax quietly. After 30 seconds, take your heart rate for 10 seconds again.
  • After 60 seconds of rest, take your last heart rate for 10 seconds.

What To Record

  1. Resting 10 second pulse: ____ x 6 = ____bpm
  2. Exercise 10 second pulse: ____ x 6 = ____bpm
  3. 30 second recovery 10 second pulse: ____ x 6 = ____bpm
  4. 60 second recovery 10 second pulse: ____ x 6 = ____bpm
  5. Fatigue Index (add the total bpm from 1,2,3,4): ____ beats

Deciphering Your Results

The fatigue index is unique to each individual and should not be compared to determine fatigue. Once you’ve established a baseline, you can use subsequent fatigue index results to measure your fatigue level. Here’s Sharkey and Gaskill’s criteria for evaluating your fatigue test results:

Find the range your fitness index falls into for your risk of overtraining:

  • 0 to 20 above resting: not generally a concern unless sustained
  • 20 to 30 above resting: slightly increased (avoid speed and anaerobic endurance training)
  • 30 to 45 above resting: increased risk (suggest short aerobic endurance training only)
  • More than 45 above resting: High risk (suggest no training)

The higher that you index is above the baseline values, the greater thelikelihoodthat you have not recovered from previous training. Also, as your index increases, you are at an increased risk for depressed immune function and upper respiratory infection.

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