Performance is all about relaxation, he said. Nerves kill performance. I wish I could go back and not have that life-and-death attitude that I often brought to races. I then asked Steve Scott what the heck was wrong with Alan Webb. I think he’s overtrained, Scott said. I went through the whole overtraining thing from89 until the end of my career, so I know his frustration.
In the beginning you do not think it is overtraining. And when you are overtrained, the only thing that can get you back to where you were is restprolonged rest. I’m talking three months, six months, maybe even a year. Webb himself had already confessed to overtraining the previous year, but he had not given himself the sort of prolonged rest that Scott advised. Overtraining syndrome has been heavily researched, and exercise scientists have unanimously concluded that loss of enjoyment in training is the earliest reliable warning sign of the condition.
By the time the athlete’s performance plummets and hormonal markers of overtraining emerge, it is already too late. Prolonged rest is needed. But the runner who consciously guides his or her training by the feeling of enjoyment can catch the problem early and avoid a major setback. Perhaps Alan Webb has not yet learned to adequately trust his emotions to guide his training, but in this regard I think he made a smart move in joining the Nike Oregon Project. I know from my own conversations with Alberto Salazar, who struggled with overtraining during his competitive career, that he believes strongly in the importance of enjoyment in training and racing and in keeping the fun in running by maintaining a healthy perspective. Salazar told me, I tell my runners, This is just a small part of life. I’m going to do my best for you, and you do your best, and whatever happens, happens. It’s not the end of the world, no matter what.
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