When we find an activity we enjoy, we can end up wanting to do it all the time. And surely if the activity we enjoy is exercise then doing more will make us more healthy? Well yes and no. Regular exercise is really important for healthy heart and lung function and to ensure our muscles and bones are strong. But if we want to maintain a good level of fitness we must respect the need for rest and recognise the dangers of overtraining.
Overtraining occurs when the volume and intensity of exercise exceeds the body’s capacity to recover. This can result in a compromised immune system, microtrauma in the muscles and protein deficiency caused by the body using up the essential amino acids faster than they can be replaced.
Signs you may be overtraining are:
- Reduction in performance. Have you gone from having a killer forehand at tennis to repeatedly missing easy shots? Red flag that you need to cut down your hours on court!
- Disrupted sleep patterns
- Suscebtibilty to colds and other illnesses. Are you constantly feeling unwell? Do you catch every cold doing the rounds? Another big sign you need to regress your training programme.
- Persistence fatigue that continues even after rest.
- Persistent muscle soreness. You should feel soreness when you’ve pushed yourself physically but it should subside again. If you are constantly sore then scale back your training for a bit.
- Injuries. An annoyance soon turns into something more serious when we ignore warning signs. Respect your body.
- Depression Or irritability.
- Lack of coordination. If everything that usually feels easy suddenly feels hard and you are tripping up or dropping things, check you are resting enough.
To avoid overtraining make sure you get plenty of rest, especially if you have a big event coming up and have increased the volume and intensity of your training significantly. Putting a deload week into your plan every fourth week if you are a very active person can be great to ensure you don’t overload your system too much. Be led by your body, not your ego. If you need to go for low intensity options in training or lower weights/ reduce reps that is fine!
If you’ve been overtraining then schedule in a massage, get some sleep, have a relaxing walk in the countryside and take some opportunity for self care. In the long run, this will make you a far better athlete.