Thursday, January 11, 2007

Avoid Overtraining to Improve Performance and Prevent Injuries

Train, Train More, Train Longer, Train Harder

Many people have made their New Year's Resolutions to improve their health and fitness. They run out of the gate like hungry tigers with great enthusiasm hoping that this year will be different. They'll do the same things - going to the gym five days a week, lifting weights three times a week and doing cardio five times a week - and yet they expect different or even better results!?

Some people don't even take the time to rest and recover and tend to go overboard. Well, if working out five times a week is good, seven times must be even better. Right!? People want to see the results fast. They spend two hours a day, five days a week in the gym for a good hopeful couple of weeks. You can tell by the gym traffic. These are all great. Or really?? Remember, it's how strong you finish the year that counts, not what you start the year with. Don't end the year like a lamb.

Truth in Life

Then the reality starts to set in. We're living in a super busy society. We all have other commitments in our life - career, family, or kids, etc. Very soon these super busy over-committed people cannot go to the gym as regularly due to late long hours of working, business traveling, time conflicts with kids' games and other social obligations, or getting sick. They start to lose their work-life balance.

They cannot come to the gym to work out on a regular and consistent basis. But when they do get a chance to work out, many skip warm-up to save time. They attempt to lift the heaviest weight they can remember from last time and do as many as possible till they're wiped out. It ends up that they get hurt because their bodies weren't used to sudden heavy weights. Injuries prevent these people from coming back to the gym, if ever, to train regularly at desired intensity. You know what happen next. They'll gain all the weight (or fat) that they have tried hard to lose and plus some more.

Consistency Is The Key

One of the challenges to achieveing your fitness goals is consistency. You need regular exercise to stay on track your fitness resolution without overdoing it and becoming sick or injured.

There is a fineline between
overloading and overtraining!

Appropriate and progressive overloading your body is one of the fitness training principles to use so that your body learns to adapt to the loads and grow stronger.

On the other hand, overtraining will have adverse effect on your body and performance. Your body may actually start to break down than build up. To juggle the right amount of training with adequate sleep, rest and nutrition is not an easy task, even to many professional athletes.

What Is Overtraining?

Simply put, overtraininig is the result of subjecting your body more work or stress (load) than it can handle. It happens when a person experiences neuro-muscular stresses from exercise faster than their body and mind can recover and repair. This doesn't typically happen overnight or from just one or two over-workouts. In most cases, it is an accumulated effect of consistent over-stressing without adequate recovery.

You've heard the old saying before: "You lift weights in the gym but grow outside the gym." It is the properly loaded exercise that breaks down your body. However, it's through rest, recovery and proper nutrition to repair your body that makes you stronger and healthier. Improvements occur during your recovery, not during your gym time.

Signs of Overtraining

Stresses can come from physical, mental or emotional sources. They all have effect on your health and well-being. How do you know that you're overtrained? How can you read the signs and symptoms of overtraining? Check the following by youself.

  • Elevated resting heart rate or pulse
  • Increase in minor injuries, colds or flu's
  • Chronic muscle soreness or joint pain/tenderness
  • Exhaustion, lethargy, fatigue
  • Appetite loss
  • Reduced ability to concentrate
  • Decreased performance
  • Anxiety, irritability or depression
  • Apathy or lack of motivation

How to Avoid Overtraining?

Somestimes it's difficult to tell if you're overtrained or simply ill based on these symptoms. The most common signs to look for are lack of motivation in the areas of your life and feeling of exhaustion. Reduced concentration and decreased performance in lifting weights is also a warning sign to watch out carefully. Prevention is definitely better than cure. But what do you do if you think you're overtrained?

Follow these suggestions ...

  • Make small and gradual change (progression) in your exercise program over a period of time.
  • Make sure you have adequate rest between workout sessions.
  • Eat a well balanced and nutritious diet to refuel your body.
  • Adjust your training program to fit your work schedule and lifestyle. Perhaps exercising two or three times a week is more realistic and achievable than five times a week. Be flexible and have fun with what you do.

All-or-nothing gung-ho approach to

fitness training is doomed to set yourself up

for failure and disappointment.

  • Change up your training program by cross training to add fun and variety, or hiring a personal trainer to help you to design an individualized training program.
  • Periodize your training program by cycling your training routines and taking time completely off from training every so often. For example, taking one or two weeks off for every 10 weeks of training is a common training practice. Even professional athletes have off season for a break to rest and recover from wear-and-tear and injuries. Why shouldn't you?

Taking time to take care of your body and mind. You'll come back stronger and be more focused in your next workout session or training cycle. Over the long term, you'll improve your performance consistently and stay injury free.

Copyright 2007 by C. Carey Yang.
All rights reserved.

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