Coach Tip Tuesday: Prescribe YOUR Effective Dose

Posted On:
Tuesday, May 19, 2020
Updated On:
Tuesday, July 18, 2023
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Tuesday has come around again! And not just Tuesday, but Coach Tip Tuesday!

One of the (many) reasons that athletes hire me to coach them is to help them determine what the “effective dose” is for them in their training.  While they may not assign that particular term (“effective dose”) to it and may not even be able to put it into words, almost every athlete that I have ever worked with is actually seeking it.

As anyone who has ever coached themselves can tell you, determining that effective dose is harder than it seems at face value.  As a coach who does this daily for other athletes, I can tell you that I have a hard time determining my own effective training dose.  Just like a doctor or a pharmacist from the medical field, it takes a lot of time and experience for an athlete or coach to learn precisely what training dose is most effective at what time in a variety of circumstances.  So this week, I want to share why effective training dose is so important.

Too little dose  - too little training - will result in a loss of fitness, a potential for injury, and can increase the probability that an athlete will not reach the goal that they’ve set for themselves.  Too much dose - too much training - significantly increases injury risk, which leads to a whole host of issues.

This is not unlike dosage for supplements or prescription drugs.  Prescribe too little or the incorrect drug, and the medicine is ineffective.  (Just think about what it is like when you take a weak antibiotic for a strong bacterial infection or imagine what would happen tried to treat cancer with ibuprofen.)  Prescribe too much, and you enter overdose territory, which could actually do the opposite of what it’s intended to do, up to and including killing you.

Yes, indeed, it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. So while exercise is a GREAT thing for the body, it IS possible to overdo it. (Raise your hand if you’ve overdone it or overtrained.)

That “sweet spot” - right at just enough - is where you want to land with your training.  SO many factors come into play when determining what that dosage is.  Your work commitments, family life, home commitments, goals, injury status, available equipment and facilities, medical conditions, daily habits, and previous experience in sport all come into play.  Just like a doctor might prescribe a different drug or even a different dosage of the same drug to two different people who have the same illness, a good coach will prescribe different dosages to each athlete they work with, even if they are training for the same race.  As I often say: Just because you CAN does not mean you SHOULD.  You COULD take 10,000mg of ibuprofen to treat a headache, but that isn’t a very smart idea, is it?

What is your goal?  How much time do you have to train?  Do you have a job that is physically demanding?  Have you struggled with an injury in the past?  Do you have a niggle that won’t go away right now?  Is your family supportive of your athlete endeavors?

All of the athletes who I work with will tell you that I ask a lot of questions as we move through a training week.  Their answers to those questions combined with the workouts they log and the information they share with me over the course of our working relationship helps me to determine what that dosage is for them.  Getting the dose right not only keeps the athlete safe, but ensures that they are peaked and ready to rock and roll *precisely* the right time to reach any/all goals that they set for themselves.  If you are self-coached, then the onus is on YOU to ask yourself these questions (and then to answer them honestly :) ) so you can arrive at that same place.

So this week (and in all the weeks to come :) ), aim to find YOUR effective dose of training so you can stay healthy, happy, and strong as you pursue your goals! :)


Coach Laura Henry

Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.

She can be reached at

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