Overtraining: Issues and Solutions

Overtraining: Issues and Solutions

Have you ever wondered if you were training so much that it was making you sick?  Exercise, like all other things, is best in moderation, and overtraining should be avoided.  In essence, overtraining simply means that you overdid it!  But overtraining isn’t the result of one hard training session.  Overtraining is a physical, behavioral, and emotional condition that occurs when the volume and intensity of an individual’s exercise exceeds their recovery capacity.  According to recent studies, an excessive exercise regime may lead to a number of short and long term health defects.  However, a complete lack of exercise may lead to a wide range of lifestyle diseases including immobility.  Balance is the key to healthy living, and once that balance is achieved, you should feel great and move better!

Breaking down muscle:
During any work out, you are breaking down muscle and causing micro-tears in muscle fibers.  That’s why rest days— scheduled within your workout regime— are so important.  The damaged muscle fibers need time to heal.  Recovery time is determined by the intensity of your workout.  For example, heavy weightlifting requires longer periods of healing— as many as seven days— while body weight exercises may require a recovery time between 24-48 hours.  In addition, your diet becomes an important factor in the resilience of your muscles.  For instance, muscle is built through protein.    Are you getting enough protein to rebuild your muscle fibers?  How much protein should you eat?
Use this formula:  Convert body weight to kg by dividing body weight by 2.2
*Body Wt/2.2 x 1= how many grams protein you should consume on a daily basis.*

Amino acids are another dietary concern.  Are you replenishing all the amino acids used during a workout? This can be achieved by ingesting a balanced protein supplement or by eating foods like the following:
•    Nuts (peanuts, cashews, almonds, pecans, Brazil nuts)
•    Seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, sesame)
•    Beans (lima, chickpeas, pinto, navy)
•    Whole soy foods (tempeh, edamame)
•    Whole grains (barley, rye, wheat, rice)
•    Vegetables (corn, potatoes, onions, mushrooms, broccoli)

Are you replenishing your calories? If you are calorie deficient, the rate at which muscle breaks down begins to increase and causes your body to be in a constant state of fatigue.  Sleep is another factor that becomes important in combating excessive muscle breakdown because the greatest amount of recovery occurs during sleep.  Are you sleeping enough? Try to get at least 8 hours of sleep during intense exercise programs.

Each of these factors— rest days, healthy diets, and adequate sleep patterns— contribute to the overall recovery of your body.  If you do not provide enough resources for recovery, overtraining may lead to negative consequences.  The best training programs are structured to provide quick recoveries before additional exercise sessions, which lead to better overall efficiency in the gym.

Stress is another factor that may determine the volume or intensity of exercise in which you should partake.  If you are coping with a large amount of stress, your body may lapse into a fatigued state, which isn’t a condition to withstand physical stress.  Fun moderate exercise is the perfect remedy to such a state.  Try a leisurely walk on the treadmill.  Hiking and bike riding may also serve as adequate solutions.

Long-Term Endurance Training:
It is easy to assume that athletes—who have participated in long-term, strenuous exercise— have the healthiest hearts.  However, that assumption has been challenged by a recent study. (Feb 2011 article) This study indicated that half of the veteran athletes had muscle-scarring on their hearts, which is a sign of heart damage.  This study further pushes the point that more exercise is not always better.

What is “just right” exactly?
I recommend 2-3 days of lifting or intensity training and two days of moderate exercise for people who are training for lifestyle.  It’s important to develop an awareness of your body— the signs of overtraining.  Just listen to your body’s signals.  If your work capacity suddenly diminishes, you’ve likely reached an overtraining threshold.  Here are some specific symptoms to keep in mind while you’re training:
•    Chronic muscle pain ( pay attention to new and persistent joint pain as well)
•    Fatigue
•    Increased substantial heart rate
•    Depressed immune system
•    Insomnia
•    Decrease of muscular strength
•    Depression
These are only a few symptoms that indicate overtraining, but they are usually evident when overtraining occurs.  It’s good to remember these symptoms while you train.  Remember more is not always better. Optimal results are encouraged through hard work and proper recovery periods.  Balance is key.  Also, remember that the body is generally functioning in survival mode.  If you’re overtraining, it will shut down in order to make you stop training and recognize its need to recover.  Always, listen to your body.

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