I recently started working with this athlete after they had struggled with fatigue and illness in the early part of the year. The athlete had reported not being able to do anything, getting too tired to train, then resting, then trying again with less training (and more rest?). Eventually they felt they would have to give up completely due to the continuing spiral of fatigue that was impacting on their work and life in general as well as leading to depression and anxiety.
The athlete uses a heart rate monitor and has done for some time, although doesn’t keep a regular training diary. I was able to upload the training data into a coaching tool called Training Peaks, which allowed me to get an overview of the training over the year. See the graph.
The graph may look complicated but in simple terms, the blue line represents the overall sustained training volume, the pink line shows the training at a given time and the yellow line represents the difference between the two; which is an indication of how fresh or fatigued the athlete is. For example, if the athlete trains for a long time with a short term load above the longer term load they will get increasingly fatigued and may end up in a state of chronic fatigue.
Looking at the early part of the season, the athlete had clearly built up a good level of training (blue line) but was almost continuously training above the level of fitness (pink line above blue line). The pink line drops below the blue line when the athlete gets ill and is unable to sustain the training load in February and towards the end of February they have to stop training completely as shown by the big drop in the pink line. The athlete was forced to spend several days in bed.
In order to get things back on track I suggested that the athlete significantly reduce the intensity of their training sessions, making use of the heart rate monitor to ensure the training load was as planned. I also carefully monitored the training load and asked the athlete to check their pulse each morning as well as think carefully about how they felt each day. I suggested they take a rest day if they felt at all tired or if they found it difficult to complete the planned training.
In this way, the athlete has been able to gradually build up training again and as can be seen from July onwards, the training volume (blue line) has gradually increased. Some short periods of rest are included as can be seen by dips in the pink line and high points in the yellow (freshness/fatigue) line.
The athlete has recently completed some hard races and longer training sessions and is now looking forward to some successful racing in the later part of the year.