Dealing With Overtraining and Funky Diets

<strong>Frey with wife Heather Fuhr at the Hawaii Ironman.</strong><br><br><em>Credit: Greg Welch/</em>

Burned Out?

Hi Guys:
I'm a second-season triathlete in Manitoba, Canada. I started training in February, 1998, did six triathlons, three duathlons and a half marathon in the summer of 1998. I took two months off from mid September to mid November, then got back into fairly heavy training and have been going steady ever since. For the past two and a half months, I have been bothered by reoccurring sickness (sneezing, clogged sinuses, etc.).

I tried to push myself through the sickness, taking a day or two off here and there, but as soon as I would do a few consecutive hard workouts it would flare up again. I examined my diet and it seems to be alright (less than 4,000 calories with less than 60 percent carbs, and all that).

As of late, I have also experienced a loss of appetite and motivation. I really love triathlons, but right now it seems to be the last thing I want to think about.

Am I going through burnout? Is taking time off now going to hurt me? What to do?

Tired Mike of the Great White North

Dear Tired Mike:

How's it goin there, eh? You are definitely overtrained! Get some rest.

Good luck,
Paul and Roch

OK, OK, that was a bit too easy.

It's great that you took that two-month stretch off, but you may have gotten things going a bit too early. November is a long way from June and we're guessing that by the time late February and early March rolled around, you were going really well, eh?

The whole reason for the winter months is to begin to build strength in the gym and to do some easy miles (preferably working on your weakness) and doing some alternate activities (cross-country skiing, snow shoeing, ice-fishing, etc.). You shouldn't begin to approach normal mileage until late March or early April. The season is too long to be going at it since November, especially considering you're new to the sport.

You desperately need one to two weeks off completely. Limit yourself to no more than one hour of easy aerobic activity a day (preferably non-tri related).

Hiking or any activity that you truly want to do is fine. Think about the things you are missing because of training and racing (baking Nanaimo bars, a quick pick-up hockey game, slamming back a few beers—Moosehead, eh?—with the boys, etc.) and spend the time doing those things. In other words, do things that are mentally refreshing and allow you to have fun. Adjust your attitude and get a different perspective of what you're doing.

At the end of these two weeks, allow yourself two weeks to gradually bring your training back up to "normal" levels and see how you feel. You will definitely NOT lose anything and, in fact, stand to gain a lot. You may need to forgo a race or two early on but I'll bet that you'll race much better than if you continue down the current path you're on.

Let us know how things go,

Paul and Roch

Diet Fads?

Dear Coaches,

I am a new subscriber to Triathlete magazine, and have a burning "Dear Coach" question.

Many of my co-workers are worshiping this all-new diet that has them attempting to go carbo-free for 14 days. Flabbergasted, I stammered and stuttered my way through all the down sides of this type of diet. So, I figured I'd get an expert opinion of the pros and cons of this type of diet. Your thoughts?



Dear Newbie,

Are your co-workers the same people who pick up those tabloid newspapers at the checkout stand and firmly believe Cher actually had ribs removed so she'd look better? Sounds like you have an office full of Mensa-level IQs.

When you consider that one's brain is fueled exclusively by glucose (broken down carbohydrates), we're sure that you're experiencing some two-week brain droughts at the office. If you've ever been around someone going through a classic carbo-loading (four days no carb/high protein; three days all carb/no protein) pre-race phase, you are well aware of what a psychotic mess an otherwise normal human being can be. When your body has to break down protein and fat to simply keep your brain going, it becomes much less efficient than when you had an unlimited supply of blood sugar floating around.

You also get really stinky breath and body odor from the protein breakdown. So, now you have not just a cranky, stupid, over-trained tri-geek but they're smelly to boot, eh?

So, you are correct to shudder at the thought of going 14 days without carbohydrates even though your smelly co-workers might think it's the new thing. There are as many diets out there as there are people hoping to get rich (and skinny). It can hurt to hear this but there is no magic formula for losing weight. Unless there's some underlying metabolic problem/disease, nutrition and body weight maintenance is a basic equation where you need to balance calories expended with calories consumed.

The balance of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins needs to be adjusted according to each individual's needs. Again, there are no magical percentages here.

If that doesn't work, we have a great diet that we guarantee you'll lose exactly as many pounds as you want. Send us $199.95 and we'll have you looking svelte and saucy in 14 days. (Since we still haven't had any requests for our agent/promotional talents so we figure we might as well try to make some extra cash pushing another worthless diet.)

Good luck,

Roch & Paul

Discuss This Article