Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Recognizing the Signs of Overtraining And How to Prevent It!

Do you feel that burn after a hard workout or a hard run? That's from pushing your body past what it's used to. Challenging yourself to harder more intense workouts (resistance training or aerobic training) over a period of time is called progressive overload. Progressive overload is how you train your body to adapt to the new conditions being put upon it. The key, however, is making sure that along with the progressive overload you are also giving your body time to recover. Ever notice how most marathon plans have you run a 20-miler followed by a day of rest and then the following week's "long run" usually isn't as long. That's progressive overload or stress adaptation. Build up. Back off a little. Build up. Back off a little. Overloading the body and then giving it a chance to recover, adapt, and heal before placing more stress upon it, is a great way to train.

The S.A.I.D principle (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand) refers to the idea that your body adapts to the specific type of stress put upon it. So, when an endurance runner pushes to finish that 20-miler in a specific time frame, his/her body is adapting to that specific type of stress being put upon it.

The problem is many athletes (aerobic or anaerobic) don't give their bodies time to adapt before imposing more stress on their bodies. So they never make it to the gain threshold. They're constantly stuck in the recovery period or worse, they become injured. This is called overtraining.
Overtraining can also be due to repetitive exercise. If you don't vary your workouts and you're constantly subjecting your body to the same stress over and over, those muscles can become overtrained. A good rule of thumb is to wait at least 48 hours before working the same muscle groups again. So for example, if your do a chest/triceps workout one day, you should wait at least 2 days before working those muscles again. Professional bodybuilders will often workout a muscle group so hard in one workout, that they'll wait an entire week before working that muscle group again.

In running you should think more in terms of hard/easy. Hard workouts can include speed workouts such as intervals, repeats, tempo runs, hill-work, or long runs. Easy workouts can include short or mid-distance runs that are run at an easy to moderate intensity (60-75% of your VO2Max). So, if you do a hard run one day you should wait at least two days before running your next hard run.

Some common signs of over training include:

  • persistent achiness, stiffness, or pain in the muscles and/or joints (beyond the typical delayed onset muscle soreness felt after a workout)
  • waking up with an elevated pulse (good idea to take your waking resting pulse frequently to give you a base from which to compare)
  • lack of energy
  • fatigued and/or achy muscles
  • frequent headaches
  • feeling lethargic or sluggish
  • drop in athletic performance
  • not able to complete your normal workout
  • depressed, moody, unmotivated
  • nervousness
  • lack of sleep and/or appetite
  • weight loss
  • lowered immune system

An elevated pulse is a good indicator of possible overtraining or even sickness such as a respiratory infection. If your waking resting pulse is elevated more than a few beats, you could have an infection or be suffering from overtraining. In either case, taking a day off may be the best thing. Rest is the best thing for overcoming overtraining. If rest doesn't do the trick, schedule an appointment with your doctor.


Kat said...

I'm having to learn the hard way, about overtraining (in addition to running in neutral shoes when I need stability)... Achillies Tendonitis set in and now I'm out, wearing a boot and reduced to swimming & the elliptical. Not fun. Live and Learn right?

RunnerDude said...

Hi Kat! Ouch! I was wearing stability shoes for years when I discoverd I'm neutral. Feel your pain. Hope you're back to running soon!

Jill said...

Hey...found your blog, thanks. I'll be sure to register for the give aways :). I liked this article because I am a constant victim of overtraining. I do follow the hard/easy rule but as I creep up in age (ugh) I cannot run the miles I used to. So it's good to read to remind me now and then.
Happy Weekend!!!

RunnerDude said...

Hi Jill! Welcome to the blog!

Heather (Where's the Beach) said...

I feel like I am in a constant battle with overtraining syndrome. I have even written about it on my own blog, but I have such a difficult time (in a mental capacity) taking the time off. I know on one hand that I desperately need it, then on the other hand I feel compelled to get the workout done regardless. It's so frustrating.

RunnerDude said...

Hi Heather! I know what you mean. I had a stress fracture in my heal a couple of years back and I had to not run for 3 months, then I had to ease back into it. It was hard as heck not running, but I did follow my Doc's instructions and you know when I was back to full stride that following summer, I had my best running times ever. I PR'd in the 5K, Half, and full Marathon. So, that time off was eviendly not only good for my heel but for my whole body. So, try hard to take the recovery time. In the long run it will be worth it. Frustrating, but worth it. Keep me posted!