How to avoid over training.

By Robyn DonnoSports Performance Analyst.

As athletes we often believe more is better. We need to push the boundaries to achieve our goals. Though this may be true, sometimes we need to rest to perform at our best.

Though imperative to maintaining our health and wellness, exercise is a stress we place on our bodies. The body is designed to maintain homeostasis, a comfortable internal environment. Physical activity disrupts this environment by increasing the demands placed on our muscular, skeletal, respiratory, and cardiovascular systems. This causes the body to react in an attempt to return to its comfortable homeostatic state. This process of adaption is not instantaneous. This is why rest and recovery are so important. If there is not enough time allowed for the adaption process, continuous exposure to stress causes the body to break down, which can result in injury, delayed recovery, lingering fatigue, underperformance, lack of motivation and negative perceptions towards training.  

So how can we identify when its time to push ourselves that one step further and when we need to rest and focus on recovery?

Tracking your training is fundamental. You need to be aware of the load you are placing on your body and ensure that you are not exceeding a realistic amount of stress but sufficient to achieve your training goal and allow for the body to adapt. By following the 10% rule (do not exceed workloads by more than 10% of the previous week’s workload) and allowing spells for tapering, you can stay on top of your training. For example, in a 4-week training block an athlete will increase the load by 10% for 3 weeks and then reduce the load in the final week to the same load as was applied in week 1, this will encourage active recovery. Everyone is different and there are many variations of training programmes, trying out the various options will assist in finding the one best suited for your specific goals.   

It is important to note rest doesn’t mean no movement. Many athletes decide to skip the rest day as they feel it will hinder their progress; this is not the case. Rest can take a number of forms, it can be a complete day off, performing at a lower intensity, stretching or foam rolling. Decide what your body needs and allow the recovery take place.

Identify internal and external stressors. Your mind and body are dependent on each other for performance. External factors such as increased demands at work, family obligations, responsibilities, time constraints and major life changes influence the amount of cortisol (stress hormone) released in the body; exercise also releases this cortisol. The intensity of your work-out determines how much cortisol is released. If too much cortisol is released into the system, you feel tired and burnt out. Try training at lower intensity or taking part in active recovery on stressful days to allow for mood boosting benefits without flooding the system with more cortisol. This may not be what’s required by your training program but remember, we are but human and these factors need to be taken into account. Be aware of what is happening in all elements of your life and regulate your training to suit your current specific circumstances.

Exercise does not have to be rigorous in order to be effective, choose something you enjoy.  Your training should not be considered a chore or punishment. It should not be the consequence of an indulgent weekend, but rather a healthy way to maintain a good relationship with your body and mind. Walking, dancing, yoga, pilates, jogging, swimming, and cycling are just a few examples of lower impact activities that you can do. By finding something that incorporates things you like with movement you can alter your perception of exercise making it something you want to do, rather than something you feel you must.

So, to recap, track your training, listen to your body, evaluate your environment, do what you love, and beat the burn out!

If you are struggling with over training or burnout then you can always book a sports performance analysis with Robyn at The Thornbury Clinic Active.