Learning More About Fatigue

As always in endurance sports like triathlon there is always something to learn about. For most things you can find a journal article, magazine article, YouTube video or a podcast to tell you what you need to know. There are however some things that need to be experienced so that you can learn. For me, deep fatigue and seeing the signs of that was one of them.

Now last year, I went into some deep fatigue, it was something I’d never experienced before. I hated waking up for training, I was lethargic, moody and generally irritable. Actually to be honest I hated all things triathlon. Now I’m someone who loves to run, but even my favourite running sessions weren’t enough to improve my mood. I thought that I was just falling out of love with the sport.

Turns out it was all about fatigue. Lucky for me the brains trust of my operation, Coach Pete at EnduranceCollab knew exactly why I was feeling the way I was. Now the problem for me was I tried to push on too quickly. I thought I was better but it wasn’t to be. I spiraled back down. The lesson I learned was to just let the body have what it needs.

So why am I bringing this up when it feels like ancient history? Because right now I’m back in a deep fatigue. This time I have an idea of why I’m feeling the way I am and I have been able to identify it a little earlier and we have been able to modify my training load to ensure I am scheduled more recovery over the coming days.

So what kind of things can you look for when you might be heading into some deeper levels of fatigue? For me its:

  • General tiredness
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Longer periods of soreness post training
  • Cravings for food (sometimes pretty random)

Now there are some signs you can look for if you are heading into a dangerous area of overtraining/overreaching. If you are a subscriber to TrainingPeaks Premium your Performance Management chart is the place to start.

In this chart you can see when I’ve hit some deep fatigue. This can be seen in the Training Stress Balance. Now, I didn’t just come up with this number by myself, but I think that once we get into the high -20s and beyond -30 on the Training Stress Balance score its time to really look to back things off. I spoke to Coach Pete about it and he said that -30 is where we need start dialing back.

Completely un-related by related, I was listening to some of the back catalog of Fitter Radio. Bevan McKinnon (a New Zealand High Performance IM coach) discusses Training Stress Balance in Episode 178. He also discussed that when TSB gets around -30 or lower its the biggest warning sign about overtraining or simply that recovery was needed soon.

On the above chart you can see that my TSB (yellow line) had been lower in the last month, that particular week was the penultimate week before my Robina Olympic Distance race whilst I was still on school holidays which meant I was able to get some extra recovery in during the days between sessions. In the chart below, you can see after that bout of deep fatigue my form TSB increased and fatigue levels (Acute Training Load – pink line) had reduced during the taper period into the race.

If you do have any questions about any of the metrics on TrainingPeaks, please let me know! As a data nerd, I spend a whole heap of time researching this type of stuff!

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