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Recovering from overtraining & chronic fatigue

I recently received the following question on overtraining:

Would you consider publishing an article about recovering from overtraining/chronic fatigue/energy deficit type problems? There is so much conflicting info on the internet and not much about what to do if it is serious (i.e a month or more and still not better yet).

This is an excellent point as while there is a lot of information about avoiding it in the first place, there is very little on the best way to return to training after a bout of chronic fatigue.

To give you our take on how we work with athletes at

The first thing we do is advise athletes to seek and follow medical advice.

Then, once you have been given the green light to start training from your doctor, we begin with very light once-a-day workouts. Keep these very short and most importantly at a very low heart rate.

Let me clarify what we mean by 'very light heart rate'.

I personally don't care what the maximum HR is. We stick to 100. That's our deal for athletes on the way back. Yes, I have athletes saying 'but my heart rate goes above that even if I go up a slight incline'. Good. The advice is then 'No problem. Walk up it.'

I think this is critical for rehabilitation.

Once we are feeling better we don't immediately lift the heart rate, but instead, add another session. Again very short, very low intensity.

30 minute swim. 30 minute run. Maximum 1hr bike ride. Yes, that short.

When we are capable of doing the two short workouts at 100 heart rate with no ill effects, we don't start to go longer, but rather up the heart rate up to a whopping 120.

I cannot stress how important it is not to push through the rehab period.

Our next step after we complete short sessions at 120 with ease is to add strength work - or more to the point specific strength work to the program.

Not more volume.

We may take the swim to 45 min and run also in this period, but until we cope with the strength work we do not lift volume.

It's my belief that volume, even at a low heart rate, creates stress on the immune system. And it is a big reason a lot of coaches fall flat with athletes on the comeback from serious illness or overtraining.

When we can handle two sessions with power at a low heart rate - then only then do we revert to a normal work out.

We do not do return to the high heart rate stuff until we can do our previous volume. I'm pleased to report that in my squad we have had very little of this type of sickness. I believe it's a large part because of a factor that I use when planning my workouts.

We do not do back to back long workouts.

Just don't do that. If you are going on a 3 hour or longer work out make sure that the previous work out is no longer than 1 hour 30 or the following work out is also no longer than 1 hour 30. In most cases at out of those three workouts, one of them will be very small. Only up to 1-hour max.

We believe this helps combat the onset of overtraining.

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