There is no big difference between an amateur athlete and a professional athlete. Often, an amateur athlete trains as much as a professional athlete, but due to his responsibilities related to work and family, an amateur athlete devotes less time to rest. Resting and eating a nutritive snack after a training session is as important, if not more, than the training itself.
As a professional triathlete and a university student, I can devote 100% of my time to triathlon during the summer, but I need to adjust to my student schedule during the rest of the year. Instead of maintaining the same training schedule during my studies, I considerably reduce the number of training hours to let my body recover enough after each training session. If I was training as much as I do during the summer, I would accumulate fatigue and I could not perform well during training sessions. After several weeks or months, I would be in an overtraining state and my fitness level would diminish.
When we talk about overtraining, it does not only concern the physical stress caused by the sum of training sessions, but also the other stresses of the athlete’s life (work, studies, family, traffic, etc.). So, instead of talking about overtraining, we should talk about “chronic fatigue”.
How can we train without accumulating chronic fatigue when we are very busy and we don’t have much time to train?
1. Prioritize quality over quantity
When we have not much time to train, it is preferable to do shorter training sessions, but with intervals.
2. Plan a rest period in your training
Most athletes have one day off every week. It allows you to rest and to recover and it gives you time to do the chores that you were unable to do during the week (cleaning up, paying the bills, etc.). It is also important to plan a rest period after your competitive season. This rest period, normally between 2 and 3 weeks, is very crucial because it allows you to recover well after your long competitive season and to return stronger the next year.
3. Reduce the stress in your daily life
Easier said than done, I know! First of all, you need to identify the source(s) of your stress. For instance, if you are stressed because of a competition that is approaching, you could consult a psychologist or talk about your concerns with your coach.
4. Becoming more zen!
When you are in a stressful situation (for instance, when you are stuck in traffic), listen to relaxing music or a podcast (I recommend you my podcast: LEBLOGDUTRIATHLETE ��) to unwind. You can even try some meditation exercises or take a few spaced-out breaths.