My husband and I recently completed an indoor triathlon. During our training sessions my husband was getting leg cramps every evening, especially during his second training session of the day. One thing I’m really good at is giving unsolicited advice to him (I know, it’s a bad habit I’m working on). I told him he should eat more throughout the day, drink more water and eat a banana or a Gatorade before his second workout to support the stress he’s putting on his body. He didn’t like me giving him this unsolicited advice but eventually he listened and guess what? His leg cramps went away and he was able to complete his training sessions.
After some time watching my husband train, I once again offered my words of wisdom. 🙂 He needed to take a break from training. He wasn’t making any improvements and was tired. I suggested he should take a couple days with no training. It was getting close to the day of the triathlon and he was feeling the pressure to keep pushing hard leading up to it. Again, he didn’t like me telling him what to do, but he did listen and took a couple days off. His body needed it so much! And when he came back to training he felt better and his body responded.
Have you ever started a training schedule and after a few weeks you felt more tired? Maybe you began to lose some motivation or you are more sore than is typical for you? If so, you may be overtraining.
Overtraining. What is it? Why does it happen? How to avoid it?
What is it?
Overtraining happens when you push your body to work hard and not realizing or ignoring the signs your body is giving you that it lacks the support it needs for the intensity of the workouts.
Signs of overtraining can include:
- feeling tired,
- weight gain,
- DOMS (Delayed-onset muscle soreness),
- increased resting heart rate,
- and muscle cramps to name a few.
While I encourage clients to lift heavy to increase muscle mass, which will then increase metabolism, it is very important to watch for signs of overtraining and to plan for it in order to avoid it.
Why Does It Happen?
Overtraining occurs when your body is not recovering from the stress being placed on it. We hear all the time “mind over matter.” During a training session we push ourselves and tell ourselves “I can do hard things!” to get through it.
And while that’s all good it is also important to stop and pause. Think about how your performance has been. Are you sleeping well? Are you eating enough for your training sessions? Are you drinking enough water? These are all areas that can affect how your body handles the stress of training. If you said no to any of these, then you may not be supporting your body enough for your training and need to make some adjustments.
How To Avoid It?
By designing a training program that incorporates a deload week regularly, you can plan yourself a break and not feel guilty about it knowing this will help you to continue with your goals.
Every 6-8 weeks you should take a deload week. Take a week to lower the intensity of your workouts to allow yourself a mental and physical break from the stress of training.
A deload week will look different based on your needs. It can have no strength training at all, or it can be fewer training days at a much lower intensity. Instead of running 6 miles you run 3. Instead of running an 8-min mile you slow your pace to a 10-min mile. This break will allow your body and mind a much needed rest!
Another thing that is very overlooked among new trainees is the importance of food!!! You MUST EAT ENOUGH for your body to have what it needs to recover! Even with a deload week if you aren’t eating enough your recovery will not be as effective. It’s like building a house and having hammers and nails but no wood. It’s not very effective if you don’t have all the things you need.
You will not see the results you want from your training if you are not supporting your body outside of the gym. This includes proper nutrition and proper rest.
While it’s good to push yourself to improve, you still need to be mindful that resting in all its forms (taking a day or days off from working out, and more naps) can also be part of the support for your training. Listen to your body. If you begin noticing that you’re feeling especially fatigued, unmotivated and not seeing the improvements you want, maybe it’s time for a deload week!
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