Understanding Overtraining Dangers
There are so many sporting events happening around us – take the recent CrossFit Games Africa Regional and the Comrades marathon, as two examples. These athletic endeavors inspire all of us to either take up exercise or to try and push ourselves to the next level, so that we too can achieve personal glory.
We throw ourselves right into the mix, sprinting out of the blocks towards glory, only to be met with an injury or sickness that then forces us to stop our march towards the new us.
As I alluded to in my article on understanding intensity for better gains, we live in an instant gratification society. We want it now. This paradigm helps push us to greater heights, but it also sets us up to fail. Sports like CrossFit or marathon running require a bunch of hours to either acquire the multitude of skills or to put enough kilometers into our legs so that we can be successful in that chosen discipline.
In order to elicit positive change in our bodies we need to overload them with the very things that can lead to overtraining; frequency, intensity and volume. However, we walk the fine line between doing just enough to make a positive change, and too much which could ultimately end in catastrophe.
Overtraining sometimes gets confused with overreaching. When people overreach in their current training regimen, they will feel continually sore or exhausted. Their mood will be affected; it will feel like nothing is going right for them. Overreaching can be cured with backing off the intensity, volume and frequency of their training to allow their bodies and minds to recover.
Should overreaching continue without an end in sight, it will lead to overtraining. Overtraining ends sporting careers; either by causing injury that takes a vast amount of time to recover from, or by preventing an athlete from ever attaining the peak form they need to be at, the top of their game.
If you notice that you are constantly exhausted and your current training sessions are suffering, it is time to stop.
A reassessment period is needed. Consult with a professional to determine if your volume, frequency and intensity can be modified to accommodate your new goals; allowing it to fit into your current life.
Take a serious look at what you are eating. While it is great to buy all the outer-space supplements to increase performance, remember that they are supplemental to your nutrition. You still need a balanced eating plan to fuel your body and help it recover from the hell you are putting it through. (Editor’s note: read this great article on understanding performance nutrition).
Active recovery days are needed so that you can step away both physically and mentally from the direction you are charging towards. Introducing fun activities that are focused on fun will remove the mental pressure. Ride a bike, play volleyball or chase a ball around a squash court. Whatever it is, you will still be active and will not lose out on the benefit of movement, however, it’s being done outside of your chosen domain of athletic performance.
Mobility should not be overlooked. You are spending hours on increasing your athleticism, yet many people do not pay attention to their mobility. All of the training is causing your body to pick up slight niggles and strains. Most people “train” through this, thinking that it makes them hardcore, when really it opens the door to injury and illness. Your body does not care if you have a six-pack or you can deadlift 250kg, it just wants to keep you alive and safe and it will do everything it can to do this.
It’s become cliché, but “train smart, not hard” and the world is there for the taking…