You may be at the point where you're training consistently but you're feeling a little off, to the point where your health and performance is starting to suffer.
Very often I find people following the No Pain, No Gain mindset . Putting their bodies through high stress loads while chasing a quick change. This type of behavior and mindset towards training can lead to what is known as overtraining.
Overtraining is defined by when a person exceeds their body's ability to recover from strenuous exercise.
This could be due to many reasons but the following are the two most common.
You’re training multiple times in a week at a high level without taking days to slow down and allow your body to recover. In order for our bodies to develop, there needs to be time for the rest and repair phase.The human system needs time to heal, adapt, and evolve to the load(stress) being placed. Overloading the system can lead to breakdown.
What you intake (quality) and how much you intake (quantity) will affect performance. If you're intaking low quality nutrients, this can hinder the quality of fuel that the body has at its disposal to perform at the level you want. Also, it's imperative that the quantity of consumption matches your training and physical activity. Improper fueling will limit the availability of nourishment and energy the body has in order to perform the activity. You can think of it as running on an empty tank, it's a matter of time before shutting down.
Soreness is not a good measure of progress or training quality and it shouldn't be. DOMS or delayed onset muscles soreness, is normal after training and usually lasts 24 to 48 hrs depending on intensity of training. Soreness consistently lasting more than 2 days can be a sign that your body is having difficulty adjusting to training stress and could affect your health and performance.
Are you constantly hurt? You feel like every other week is a new injury or the same injury that never heals fully. When recovery and training levels don’t match, your body is then constantly playing “catch-up” to your current training demands. This deficiency in recovery leads to deterioration of the musculoskeletal system.
This is when you have the feeling of exhaustion and lack of energy for training or anything else. This is your neuromuscular system sending you signals of depletion. Your activity and lifestyle is depleting energy from your nervous system to the point where it's losing the ability to replenish fast enough. Emphasizing recovery in your training is as much of a recharge for your nervous system, as it is for your muscles and tendons.
Your body's inability to adapt to stress accumulates more stress. As your neuromuscular system fights to maintain balance due to stress overload, likewise, other systems of the body like the limbic system struggle with their roles like regulating mood, emotions, and behavior.
The body has a series of checks and balances to keep our human bodies running smoothly. In the autonomic nervous system we have two components known as the parasympathetic (rest and digest) and the sympathetic (fight or flight ). Increased levels of stress due to overtraining, increases sympathetic tone in the body and impairs the rest and digest function. This makes it difficult for the body and mind to wind down and relax for a goodnight's sleep and proper digestion.
Low energy, no sleep, and lack of nourishment makes for a weakened human system. Part of this complex system is our ability to fight off infection, disease, and other foreign invaders. A compromised immune system can increase the likelihood of sickness.
Being constantly tired, hurt, and/or sick is no fun for any athlete. Overtraining can lead to the likelihood of all three, which reduces the enjoyment from training in the first place.
Okay, you realize you have been overtraining and you need help.
First thing is first, scale down all physical activity intensity down to about 50% for a week or two. This will give your body time to recover throughout all systems while still staying active.
During this time you want to prioritize stress management, sleep quality, mobility/stretching exercises, and implement bodywork. The goal is to emphasize rest and repair and facilitate your body's natural ability to recover.
After about a week or so, you can start slowly returning to regular activities while being mindful of any modifications that were made. It's important not to fall in the same trap that leads to overtraining in the first place.
So you have learned your lesson and want to optimize your training.
It all starts with building a healthier training mindset.
Then, I recommend athletes to prioritize recovery just as much as actual training (if not more). First by making sure that you're getting a good night sleep, eating well, and managing stress well. Then, by implementing recovery within your training program by adding a minimum of 30 minutes of bodywork and mobility sessions 1-2 x a week. I find that this is better when done in the middle of the training week as it gives your body a reset and recharge for the rest of the week.
Lastly, make sure that your training and physical activity has blocks of lower intensity planned. It can't be all high intensity and heavy lifting. Give your body the time to heal, adapt, and evolve within your training. This could be with mid-week recovery (as mentioned earlier), mixing in lower impact conditioning and strength training , or planned deload (lower intensity) weeks.
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