Over-Training: How to Avoid It We’ve all done this: if one – fill-in-the-blank - is good and two is better, then three must be even better!! We’ve applied this to aspirin, beer, doughnuts and, yes, to our workouts. I’m talking about the scourge of almost every gym-goer: over-training, which results from too much exercise for too long and not enough rest. Its symptoms include:
· Lack of training progress. · Decreased muscular size and strength. · Increased joint and muscle soreness. · Loss of interest in training. · General fatigue. · Insomnia.
Overtraining is an easy rut for get into. Case in point: when I was an Olympic-style lifter, I watched my Olympics-bound training partner train five days a week. No real cycles that I recall and just some time off before and after a meet. Well, I figured, what worked for him should work for me. I didn’t realize then that, because of a myriad of factors including athletic ability and genetics, we can’t all be Arnold Schwarzenegger. No matter. I trained really hard and, after a while, watched my progress decline. I figured that I wasn’t working hard enough. What did I do? You got it: more sets, more reps, more training, more, more, more! So, what happened as a result? Poor performance and injuries including tendonitis and a nasty bone bruise eventually followed. Does any of this sound familiar?
Over-training happens to us all and creeps up on us very slowly. The trick is to be smart and to plan for it. Ask yourself this: when was the last time you took a scheduled week off from the gym? And, I mean, completely off? That’s what I thought… The good news is that avoiding over-training is as simple as including that week off as an integral part of your training. As with the lifting aspect of your training, this rest period becomes part of your routine. Avoiding doing too much simply requires discipline - lots of discipline. So, if you haven’t taken that week off in a while, drop everything and take it now. Right now. Your body will thank you by responding forcefully to your next workout cycle. You want to look forward to your next cycle. I drive my wife crazy because, by every Thursday of my week off, I keep telling her that I “can’t wait for my next cycle!” By then, neither can she!
Here are a few more things you can do:
1. Specifically map out your next workout cycle. They should run for 8 to 10 weeks with alternating heavy and light weeks. This will include a week off at the end. 2. Set goals for yourself. Whether it’s a weight in the bench press or a specific number of pull-ups. Just make your objective challenging and realistic. You may surprise yourself! Then, you can go happily into your week off too. 3. Plan your workouts so that you work body parts – upper and lower – no more than twice a week. Your muscles typically need about 48 hours to recover. So, these planned rests will work wonders! 4. Stretch after your workout. For some of us, this is a very difficult thing to do. You don’t have to do too much but discipline yourself to do some. Stretching after your workout helps reduce fatigue and prepares you for your next workout. 5. Drink easily digested protein within 30 minutes following your workout. Two reasons: first is that it’s a nice reward; second is that this will help your muscles heal.
Nothing will render your workouts relatively useless faster than over-training. However, if you plan around it by following a few simple steps, you’ll be able to extend your progress almost indefinitely.