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Learning from sport burnout and overtraining
Learning from sport burnout and overtraining

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4 Insight: less is more

You saw in the Clay example how a 50% reduction in training load contributed to her lifetime best results. When training loads are appropriate, less (training) really can result in more (improvement and physical progress).

American coach Dan Pfaff who worked with Olympic gold medallists Donovan Bailey, Greg Rutherford and Jonnie Peacock supports the ‘less (training) is more (performance)’ approach that Clay started to benefit from at Loughborough. This is what he says about training:

I think there is a tendency for athletes to do more than they should. They think if two was good let me do four, well four was pretty good let me do six; well there is a breaking point and more is not better. I’m actually the opposite, every year I write training plans I’m looking what can I get rid of. You know, how few of things can we do.

(Pfaff, 2012)

It is debatable whether athletes who choose to put in more sessions are doing so due to individual ambition, which is reinforced by sport training culture. However, a shift in ethos to ‘less is more’ and ‘recovery is training’ would clearly help many athletes to prevent overtraining.

So far in this course you have considered the burnout experience as something that is often very individual to each athlete. What happens when you attempt to introduce medical assessments to overtraining: can it be classified medically? This intriguing question is the focus of the next section.