http-equiv='refresh'/> Global Therapies: Overtraining

Wednesday, 18 January 2012


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It's got to the 2nd or 3rd week of the year, you might be feeling a bit tired from the exertion of you current new found training scheme.

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But is there more? Are you not sleeping well despite exercising more? Are you beginning to feel listless, unmotivated, inflexible and generally run down? Are you beginning to think that if exercise makes you feel like this, then really, what is the point?

Maybe you've already hit a level of overtraining, it isn't hard to do. The problem is that when overtraining happens and you get tired, all motivation collapses in on itself, and you stop going out and bettering yourself, ending up falling back into the same rut that you have done for the past few years.

Overtraining is something that can happen to anyone and everyone, from the beginner on the block, right up to the most experienced person in the gym or in the race. It can occur because of a sudden change to the Frequency or Intensity of training.

As hinted in the first paragraph, the symptoms of overtraining can appear in many guises. The most obvious one being feeling sore after training, classic DOMS, or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. This is not too bad a thing. Rest, Ice on the area which feels sore and when you feel better, Drink more water, and continue on training at a slightly lower intensity, building up slowly. The pain is coming from a variety of issues, none of which are particularly worrisome, as long as you take it easy in training for a while. Training at an easier, more sustainable level is better than either:
  1. continuing on through the pain - something will break at some point.
  2. just giving up. Think about why you started exercising in the first place, does that motivation still hold? Don't give up.
However, overtraining can be a bit of an issue if the symptoms are a little less obvious than pain in specific muscles.
If for the past few days you've been feeling one or more of these...
  • Listless
  • Unmotivated
  • Exhaustion
  • Chronic Joint Pain
  • Insatiable thirst
  • Decreased performance
  • Stiff muscles
  • Excessive weight loss
  • Unable to sleep
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Generally not particularly "feeling it"
...and for the past few days or weeks you have upped the training somewhat, you may well be overtraining. If you continue on training at the same level, you have an increased susceptibility to minor injuries and illness.

The reason for the various issues you are feeling stem from a Sympathetic dominance of the Nervous system, the so called "fight or flight" reflex. Continual stressing of the body - brought on as a response to exercise, excitement, anticipation and performance - causes the nervous system to excrete hormones and chemicals into the body which make it continually ready for action. This has an effect on everything throughout the body, from the thickening of ground substance - the stuff that makes up muscles, tendons and ligaments - to the inhibition of normal gastric movement and a restless mind, constantly thinking about things throughout the day, stressing the brain, as well as the body. Although it may not feel like it, the whole of your being is constantly on edge because of the dominance of various hormones released by the new stress of the (perhaps ambitious) exercise regime. It doesn't feel able to relax, calm down, or give itself time to repair itself. A number of problems can be associated with this including slowed recovery, emotional agitation, breathing disorders and digestive upset.

Without some downtime, the body will begin to be inefficient, physically and mentally causing some, maybe all of the issues listed above.

While the body needs Sympathetic Dominance during work and exercise, there must be a balance, and during rest, the Parasympathetic should come to the fore. This is where other hormones are released and the body is able to relax, heal and look after itself. But if the MIND is still stressed, the body will not be in a position to release the hormones, and will continue in Sympathetic Dominance.

How do we get to a place where Parasympathetic dominance takes over? Some people find meditation works, others, just sitting reading a book, chilling out, not even THINKING about exercise or anything that stresses them - which can cause a negative hormonal effect. If you are far down the overtraining route, and are beginning to get niggles, just laying off the training might not be enough.

I know it may seem like an obvious thing for someone like me to say, but get a massage. It doesn't have to be a "hard, painful" massage, something to relax out the muscles, normalise the tissues in the body, increase blood flow and enable the body to relax from the outside, in. The action of kneading muscles and tissues increases the circulation and warms up the ground substance - enabling the body to actually relax more.

With the benefit of quality "downtime" your exercise regime will gain quality as well enabling you to continue aiming for the goals you have set yourself, without crashing and burning in the first month.

As Coach Keefe says from Strength and Performance, "Every athlete or avid gym goer should be getting some form of sports treatment, from a relaxing, flushing massage right up to deep myofascial release. It all works, its just when to use each one to the benefit of your training. You have to treat each massage like training itself, so after hard strenuous training sessions I would recommend more of a flushing, lymphatic and circulatory based massage, as this will aid in blood flow and the repair of the muscle tissues, plus it will help relax you!! Save the deep tissue therapy for days when you aren't going so hard in the gym."

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