By Christopher Cudworth
You should learn and know the 10 Deadly Sins of Training no matter how much you run and ride. But this is no mere Top 10 list. These can’t be placed in order because they all matter equally. You can make your own priorities once you know better what the 10 Deadly Sins of Training really are.
Not getting enough sleep
Trying to train hard without getting enough sleep is a sin of arrogance. Your mind and body need time to recover, rest and heal when you’re training hard. The only way to maintain a solid training regimen is to get enough sleep so that you are refreshed and able to function in your occupation and your avocation. Anything less is harming your ability to improve. Advice: If you don’t want to weep, get some sleep.
THE TARSNAKES OF TOO LITTLE OR TOO MUCH…
For years we’ve all been lectured that it is important to get enough fluids to avoid dehydration during training. That means during workouts and from day to day in your training, it is important to drink fluids. Theories seem to be changing on hydration during actual workouts (see next deadly sin) but the best advice right now is to perform some tests over time with your own body. If you’re accustomed to drinking on the run, then record how much you drink and how you feel. Use a set distance like 6 or 10 miles as a baseline. Same goes for cycling. It is not likely you need to hydrate much in a ride under an hour in length, but beyond that your hydration needs increase and having a record of how or when you feel the effects is helpful to know how much to drink. In hot weather, adjust upwards for both the workout and day-to-day needs. Advice: If you’re feeling dry, figure out why.
It is likely you never thought you’d hear the word “overhydration,” also called water excess or water intoxication. Those of us who run and ride need to be aware of its risks, the signs, and why it is such a sin. If the body contains too much water it does not function correctly. According to Healthline.com, a normal adult who does not work out would have to drink two gallons of water a day to cause overhydration. But a person working out from 2 to 4 hours a day might drink that much during the course of a day inside the workout and during recovery. Here’s the weird fact: Your brain is the organ most at risk from water intoxication. It can result in confusion, seizures and shock. But athletes will most commonly feel something less than those symptoms. Typically overhydration rather literally produces a feeling of being drained, washed out and weak that are the product of hydrating too much. All can cost you in terms of performance. Advice: Don’t water down your efforts.
The idea of training too much seems to be a foreign concept to those who run and ride. It is entirely possible and quite common for athletes to do too much too soon or pile on mileage as insurance against hitting the wall or bonking. Trouble is, overtraining basically erases your health margin bit by bit. When you are overtrained you are essentially overtired. That means you’ll get colds or flu more easily, pick up injuries from overuse and not have the mental energy or positivity to stick to your goals. Signs of overtraining include constant thirst, craving for sweets, irritation or agitation, feelings of depression, lack of enthusiasm or complacency and sore throat or colds. The biggest cause of overtraining is “junk mileage” or training done as a sort of blanket insurance in hopes of covering up other sins such as too little speedwork or poor planning. Advice: Give yourself a break or risk breaking down.
Athletes in love with the notion of completing a marathon, half marathon, Ironman or a Century Ride often underestimate the optimal training required to complete or compete in the event. Newbies especially tend to be undertrained the first time around. That sin only becomes evident in the middle stages of the event or worse yet, when you are just about done and the Grey Ghost of Fatigue takes you down. Undertraining can be detected by competing or completing smaller scale events in the leadup to the main event, which tends to be longer. If you are running a marathon for the first time, completing a half marathon a month or two in advance is a good way to gauge your overall fitness. Same goes with a Century Ride or a triathlon. Most athletes will do event training that covers at least ½ to ¾ of the distance in training. Then you know whether you’re ready or not. Advice: Train enough to succeed or stay home.
THE TARSNAKES OF STRETCHING YOUR LUCK
Wearing or using old equipment
Those of us runners with frugal tendencies like to make our shoes and other equipment last a little longer. That’s generally a dumb idea, since worn out shoes often show no signs of excess wear but instead break down the soles from the inside out. That puts you in bad mechanical alignment and can lead to injuries. In cycling the same pattern occurs but one must extrapolate to the bike where worn tires can result in increased flats, poor and dangerous handling and even bike wobble. The same goes for brake pads, chains and other “contact” equipment on your bike from cables to bike seat. If it’s worn out, it’s a risk and possibly costing you in terms of training efficiency. Advice: Get in good gear or get flattened.
Hygiene is any bodily habit that keeps you clean, free from infection and able to train and perform at the highest level. Bad hygiene is usually the product of lazy habits, but many athletes don’t know they have them. For example, even dental hygiene is now recognized as a critical health point because tooth infections and gum disease have been shown to contribute to other health problems ranging from heart disease to arterial plaque and infections that compromise the immune system. Taking care with your eyes to prevent infections is also important, as is ear, nose and throat health. Poor hygiene such as wearing old contact lenses or cleaning your inner ear too aggressively can set off infections and bodily reactions that interrupt your training. Advice: Always clean up your act
Too little recovery
Coming off a big event or a tuneup race it is easy to get excited about your latest PR and begin hard training right away. Unless you are in the final stages of peak fitness and racing hard during September and October, it is far better to make sure you are fully recovered before diving back into speedwork on foot or on the bike. Your body may feel great in training, but the effort required in racing often hides from detection. If you fail to allow your body to recover, the most common result is illness or injury. Enjoy the Glow and Take It Slow in the few days after racing or doing a really long training effort. You might for example allow a day of recover for every 3 miles raced (or hard training) before you jump back into another really hard effort. In cycling the rules for recovery are a little different because you can go out and spin hard for hours at a high cadence that might be very easy. Even Tour de France riders put in hours of riding on rest days, for example. So there is such as thing as “active rest.” You don’t need to quit training entirely. Just monitor your effort and don’t let anyone pull you into an unwanted slog. Then you’ll suffer that day and well beyond. Advice: Recover well and sin no more.
THE TARSNAKES OF MIND AND BODY
When it comes to sins, this is one of the worst. Having a bad diet, one tipped too far toward sweets or fats or carbs or any other direction can hinder training in the short and long term. Being aware of what you put in your body should be one of the simplest tasks we assign ourselves in training, but athletes are susceptible to the same flaws as the rest of the population. We overeat, eat too much of one type of food, indulge in comfort food or excess and suffer the consequences as a result. If you sin by eating a bad diet you literally are what you eat, a pillar of sin when you should be a temple of dedication. Advice: Fix your diet before it fixes you.
Thinking too much or thinking too little
The worst training sin of all may be thinking too much about what you’re doing. But then again, it may be thinking too little about what you’re doing. So how do you achieve the proper balance in your thinking? The answer is simple: If you are focused on solutions and sustainability in your training, you are on the right track. That means you’re figuring out what you need to do and how to keep it going. If you are worried constantly that your training is insufficient or too much, then you’re committing the sin of “though collapse.” That’s not constructive thinking in other words. Turn worries around and examine them. If your worries are centered on concerns about your self worth if you fail, or fear of not living up to the expectations of others, then you’ve drifted outside the boundaries of why you should be training in the first place. You’re running and riding to better your health, create a better mindset and self image, improve physical and work performance and to create lasting memories of participation and affirmation. Advice: Keep your real goals in mind and the rest will fall into place.
The 10 Deadly Sins of Training are easy to understand but hard to avoid. Consider them like barrels along the highway in a construction zone, designed to keep you on course but likely to slow you down until you get out of danger.
Run on. Ride on.