I get a lot of emails from athletes who are frequently injured or sick and are frustrated. They can't seem to make any progress. There may be many factors that are at the root of such training breakdowns. Common mental causes are greed and impatience. Most of us need a "psychometer" to warn us when we're pushing too hard. Until that is invented you will just have to rely on your mental strengths. Here are a few thoughts on how to go about doing that.
Knowing when to stop is critical with hard workouts. As a coach, when I attended an athlete’s hard workout, such as intervals that push the athlete to his or limits, one of my roles was to carefully watch how the athlete was coping with the stress. Besides providing encouragement and feedback, I was also there to stop the workout short of completion when I thought the risk of injury or other breakdowns was becoming too great. I could generally tell when an athlete had reached his or her limits. Form begins to deteriorate. Perceived exertion becomes too great. Performance erodes. The athlete has a hard time recovering within the session. It's time to stop.
You may not have a coach to do this for you so it comes down to you making such a decision. Here's what I'd suggest you do. When in an interval session if you feel as if you could do only one hard effort then it’s time to stop the workout and cool down. Don't do the last one. Besides interval sessions other risky moments when you should consider stopping the session are in the last few minutes of a hard steady state and the last ten percent of a very long workout.These are the times when the risk is the greatest. Injury and illness may be sneaking up on you. Be especially cautious at those times when your fitness is high as in the last few weeks before an A-priority race.
One of the biggest challenges some athletes have in stopping a workout is greed—they want all of the fitness they can get right now. You need patience to be a high-performance endurance athlete. I’ve said that many times in this blog. Patience is the key to consistent training. Greedy athletes will commonly lose more fitness than they gain over the course of a season due to constant breakdowns from injuries and illness. Being patient allows your body to fully adapt and grow stronger. This takes time. It can't be rushed.
Greedy training pushes your body too far beyond it’s current physiological limits. It’s only way of stopping you is to become overtrained, sick, injured or burned out. Those are common signs of greed and impatience.