Sports scientists and coaches refer to the short-term process of pushing your boundaries as over-reaching.
Functional over-reaching is where you are pushing your limits just enough to stimulate your body to adapt and become stronger. The perfect way to do this is to train hard, then recover just enough to allow your body to adapt to the training but not start to lose form. You can then return to training and push your limits a little further and repeat the process. This is over-reaching in a positive sense as you are able to recover from training-induced fatigue with short periods of recovery. You can read more about effective recovery in my previous article.
Non-functional over-reaching is when you have pushed the boat out too far in terms of training stress. At this point, the period of recovery needed to allow your body to adapt is greater than the time period in which you will begin to feel the benefit of the training.
If you find yourself in this position then you will likely need two to three weeks of rest to recover before you are able to return to training. Needless to say, non-functional over-reaching is the bad type of over-reaching.
So, where does over-training come in to this? True over-training is actually fairly uncommon. It is, in essence, a severe form of non-functional over-reaching that will require months or even years off the bike. People with true over-training syndrome are likely to suffer from serious illnesses such as chronic fatigue syndrome or glandular fever.
Now let’s consider how far you can over-reach before you tip the balance in the wrong direction.