Overtraining Syndrome and How To Avoid It
Can we talk about something? I feel like overtraining doesn’t get spoken about very often in the fitness industry. We talk about it a lot in the nutrition and health world. But in the fitness community, it often gets over shadowed by the “no pain, no gain,” “no days off” mentality. I have to admit, I am guilty of this myself- but to my own detriment.
Raise your hand if you have ever felt guilty from taking a day off! That’s right, my hand’s in the air too! And it’s not right. For most of us fitness buffs we have trouble backing off, not pushing harder. And I am guessing that since you are reading this, you are most likely the type of person to be driven, organized (okay, we try), and like to have a plan/goals to work towards. You are an achiever, always looking to better yourself and what you offer the world. Which is awesome!! If you are a runner, pay especially close attention – just by the nature and reduncancy of our sport, we are especially susceptible.
Let’s talk about the women in the room for a minute. We usually, by nature, push ourselves too hard in most areas of our lives. This can be giving too much into our careers, too much pressure into being fit or eating a perfect diet, this can also be spending too much time “momming” and taking care of everyone else (even if you’re not a mom) that we neglect ourselves. Ladies, we do this all the time. It’s beautiful! But it means for most of us that we need to learn how to slow down, take care of ourselves and not push so hard.
Let’s talk about the men in the room for a minute. Men do this too, sometimes worse than women. If I am being incredibly over-generalized, women have a higher tendancy to spread themselves very thin and have high expectations for many things whereas Men will pick a lesser amount of goals, but then push extremely hard for them. This is also awesome, but can lead to an incredibly unbalanced and unsatisfying life. And in the case of athletics, can cause injury.
Now, let me allow science to tell you, let’s talk about Overtraining Syndrome.
Overtraining is a term to describe when an athletes training intensity or volume of training exceeds the body’s ability to recover. Overtraining can be split into two categories. The first is mechanical overtraining, which results in an overuse sports injury (like tendonitis). Runners commonly experience this. The second is metabolic overtraining that occurs when nutrient intake does not meet the needs for recovery, this can be short term, or can be a chronic, long term syndrome when an athlete continues to not allow time for rest. Women are most susceptible to this because of the feeling of needing to eat less.
Overtraining as a syndrome can actually be quite serious and can potentially lead to Type 2 diabetes, Cardiovascular disease, Blood vessel damage, Kidney failure, Blindness, Stroke, and Osteoporosis if it is drawn out.
Those of us who are also stressed or lead stressful lives, struggle to get enough sleep and/or make poor food choices (resulting in inflammation and poor recovery), are even more susceptible to overtraining. I am someone who does high volume training for almost all of my sports, running, biking, weight lifting, rock climbing… but with this comes repetitive movements and an even higher likely hood that I will slip into overtraining.
So what can we do?
First and foremost, clean up our diets and try taking extra rest days. You will general know when it is time for a rest day with lots of practice, but some signs that you need extra rest are soreness that lasts longer than two days, fatigue, or if you feel moody/irritable/angry.
If you have tendon pain or sharp pain, take a day, or three, or more, off, then avoid working that area until it stops hurting and consider getting it looked at. The hardest part is easing up on workouts, but sometimes it is the best thing we can do for our fitness. I am a big fan of physical therapy.
Other lifestyle practices that often help:
Essentially, it comes down to maximizing recovery. Recovery occurs during sleep, rest, and with proper nutrition. Some practices that help these areas include:
· Make time for rest and relaxation
· Practice meditation
· Planning rest days into your training
· Play around with lower volume training (“train smarter not harder”)
· Spend more time cross-training
· Stretch, roll out and get massages (This has saved me from running injures many times!)
· Practice Yoga (great for those of us who hate stretching after workouts)
· De-stress and get rid of excess stress in your life
· Create a regular sleep schedule