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When To Adjust Your Training Load


Adjusting your training correctly will get you to your best performance

It can be so tempting to tick off all the planned workouts for the week.  In apps such as TrainingPeaks the boxes turn green resembling the satisfaction that comes with completing training.  But how do you know when you should deviate from the planned session(s)?  If you are tired, should you push through the workout or take an unplanned rest day?  It can be confusing and overwhelming to say the least.  It is important to avoid going into nonfunctional overreaching.  Non-functional overreaching leads to short term impairments in performance that may last weeks or months (Meeusen et al., 2013).  Following acute recovery, athletes do not show a supercompensation effect.  There are no advantages associated with non-functional overreaching and coaches should regulate training and recovery to avoid this condition (Meeusen et al., 2013).


Here are a few tips to help you know when to adjust your training load:


  • The prescribed effort and actual effort on workouts don’t match for three or more workouts in a row.

Let’s say your interval session was 3 x 8-minutes at half marathon race pace.  You got through the workout and hit the necessary pacing.  However, the 8-minute repeats felt like a 10-km effort not half marathon.  This is an example of a workout where the actual effort was harder than the prescribed effort.  If this happens consecutively for three or more workouts, you should decrease your training load and increase your focus on recovery practices.


  • You lack motivation to train and the feeling doesn’t go away as the workout goes on for 2 – 3 workouts in a row.

It is normal to feel sluggish and a bit unmotivated when it comes to starting your workout.  Perhaps you hesitate with jumping in the pool or stand in the driveway waiting for inspiration to start running.  If the lackluster motivation does not go away for the entire workout, it could mean that fatigue or stress was high that day.  If that feeling continues for two to three workouts in a row, this is an example where you should adjust your training load.


  • You have poor performances for 2 – 3 workouts in a row.

It can be tricky to understand why you have a poor performance.  Maybe you couldn’t hit the paces in the interval workout, or you run much slower than you normally do on an easy run day.  Environmental conditions are out of your control, and you will definitely run slower if heat and humidity are a factor.  However, if the weather is no different and performances are poor for two to three workouts in a row, it could indicate that you need to back off your training for three – seven days. 


The overall goal with adjusting training based on symptoms is to improve performances and decrease the risk of overuse injury.  Be open to changing your planned training so you can be at your best on race day.



Meeusen, R., Duclos, M., Foster, C., Fry, A., Gleeson, M., Nieman, D., … & Urhausen, A. (2013). Prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of the overtraining syndrome: joint consensus statement of the European College of Sport Science and the American College of Sports Medicine. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 45(1), 186-205.

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