Our body adapts to stress - gets stronger - during periods of recovery. Athletes tend to push themselves, always testing limits. We find this to be the case regardless of age. Show us a motivated swimmer and we'll show you one who 9 times out of 10 is over trained and under rested.
You can get away with this for quite some time, especially if you are generally healthy and well nourished. But know this for certain, at some point you reach a stage of diminishing returns.
We see it in our Masters group as well. Often adults use physical exertion to balance and relieve the stress of mental effort. A really good workout relaxes you from the workday stress while improving your fitness level. That is an excellent reason to workout!
Yet, if you find yourself exhibiting any of the following symptoms you may need a day or even two off:
1 - Hard to get out of bed in the morning
2 - Once you get out of bed you still feel sluggish, like you are dragging around
3 - Your early morning pulse rate is elevated 8-10%
4 - You feel achy, flu like
5 - Your swim (or bike or run) times are off noticeably
6 - Your motivation seems to be slipping a little
7 - You are cranky in general
8 - Your body weight is dropping even though you are eating the same
9 - You are trying harder and going slower
You get the idea we are certain. These types of effects suggest that you are nearing or actually in the "Zone of Failing Adaptation". This means that your body is not getting stronger between workouts but actually is still breaking down. And this is not a good thing.
We have seen swimmers who push themselves while in this "Zone". The result is usually a lost season or if you are lucky only part of a season. In our Senior training group - the kids heading for Sectional/State and National meets - we have 11 workouts each week. They look like this: 3 in the weight room and 8 in the pool. It is a rare week when anyone makes all 11. Of the 8 swimming sessions only 3 are listed as "Stress" workouts with an additional 1 listed as "Aerobic". The other 4 are for drill work, pacing skills etc. When we get closer to a December Peak Meet we will drop all those numbers significantly. If anyone shows signs of weakness we will limit their attendance immediately until we see signs of life again.
Our Masters swimmers have workout opportunities 7 days a week. Even if they could figure out how to come 7 days we are pretty sure they would soon find a need for skipping one or just showing up and swimming easy for 20-30 minutes and getting out.
You do not get stronger and faster unless you push yourself. You do not get stronger and faster unless you rest between stress sessions. You can still swim but change your focus to technique and don't even count the laps or yards.
Remember this: when you find yourself in a hole, put the shovel down and stop digging or the hole will get deeper!