Know when to rest
“I work out seven days a week, two to three hours a day and I am not seeing any results. I haven’t lost any weight, I’m more tired and experience more pain. I thought exercise was supposed to help.”
I often hear statements like this from my clients in my work as a physical therapist in Cameron Park. What they may be experiencing is overtraining syndrome. They are shocked when I suggest rest as a solution, which can be the key to achieving their fitness goals — more exercise is not always better.
With more and more people entering the exercise world, overtraining is more common. It doesn’t discriminate based on fitness levels. It can happen to anyone including high-level athletes. For the person just starting to exercise, it’s often a result of doing too much too soon instead of gradually increasing the intensity. For high-level athletes, it may be a result of sacrificing rest time to maximize training time.
When overtraining occurs, the body can’t recover from the demands placed on it. Exercise results in muscle tissue breakdown, depletion of energy stores and loss of fluid. Without adequate rest, nutrition and recovery the body can’t replenish its energy stores and muscle tissue can’t regenerate. The result is prolonged fatigue, underperformance, chronic tissue damage and overuse injury.
Rest and recovery will help combat overtraining syndrome. Rest means stop the activity. Recovery refers to the process of healing from the stresses on the body. There are two types — short and long-term recovery.
Short-term recovery typically occurs immediately after the activity. This can include filling up the body’s energy stores with proper nutrition and hydration or by “cooling down” after a high-intensity activity. Cooling down, also known as active recovery, refers to engaging in a low-intensity activity immediately after a vigorous workout to let the body remove lactic acid from the muscle by actively assisting blood circulation. Accumulation of lactic acid can lead to muscle fatigue.
Long-term recovery means incorporating rest days into your workout regimen, cross-training or periodization of your training program. Periodization means varying your workout over six to eight week blocks.
Recognizing that someone is overtraining is the most important step in recovery. Signs include difficulty sleeping, general fatigue, increased irritability, gradual increase in muscle soreness, increased resting heart rate, decreased competitive drive and depression. It may also lead to unintentional weight loss.
If you are experiencing signs of overtraining, here are some basic steps to combat its effects:
•1. Rest. The more intense the workout, the more the rest your body requires.
•2. Use a training log to monitor your progress.
•3. Gradually increase the intensity of the activity.
•4. Maintain good nutrition and hydration
•5. Cool down following high-intensity activity.
•6. Periodize your workout.
•7. Cross train.
•8. Get adequate sleep
Tom Curry is a licensed physical therapist and certified strength and conditioning specialist.