Over Training — No Payoff

We exercise to increase our physiological performance, to lose fat, increase lean muscle mass, increase our overall energy and more. But you could be exercising with no results or even reaching a digressive state. For a fitness programme to survive it needs to balance its components of exercise, nutrition and rest. Many think that exercise by itself is enough and you grow while you are working out. In reality, it’s the opposite, your body breaks down during exercise and repairs and grows while you eat and rest. One has to train smarter not just harder. If your training frequency, volume, and intensity are too high and your recovery phase too short and inadequate, your body will suffer a progressive physical breakdown. This is known as overtraining.

The symptoms of overtraining are many, the feeling of staleness and fatigue. If you’re tired before the workout and that tiredness is prolonged post workout it’s an alarm bell that should not be ignored. The results could be extreme soreness or injury followed by poor sleeping patterns, an elevated resting heart rate, susceptibility to colds and other viral infections, aching limbs, reduced stamina, and a lack of explosive power. It will also adversely affect your psychological state. You will be dragging yourself to the gym, which will be detrimental to your consistency.

Your body needs to rest and eat to repair its tissues and replace energy stores. Recovery is an important aspect of any fitness programme. If your recovery period is not managed properly your progress will suffer or you will simply not develop. It is often said that a muscle requires 48 hours to recover following a strength training session, which means that a training frequency of two to three times per week is optimal. While this is a good starting point, recovery capacity differs greatly between individuals. Depending on the fitness and experience level some people can train daily and still recover and adapt, while others can manage just one session a week. Working out at your optimum training frequency is a process of trial and error. But applying appropriate exercise intensity and recovery management holds true to avoid overtraining.

Some tips to manage overtraining:

  • Increase your training volume and intensity gradually keeping your fitness level in mind. Concept of periodisation can be applied to manage volume, intensity and recovery.
  • Manage intersession and in-between sessions rest. Nothing is better than a good night’s sleep, and when exercising, ensure that you take adequate rest to prepare for the next set. This is based on the intensity of the exercise routine you are following. If overtrained, take some time off. It’s best way to rest your muscles and recharge your whole system. And you will also go back to your training with renewed vigour and enthusiasm.
  • Eat properly, especially your pre and post training foods. Combine carbohydrate with protein, it has been shown to be more effective in promoting glycogen recovery than carbs alone.
  • Stay properly hydrated — your functional capacity decreases by 40 per cent when you are not adequately hydrated. It also impedes your recovery process.
  • Periodic massage — helps you relax and flush out stress and toxins.
  • Stretching and breathing — static stretching and deep breathing helps your relax and recover faster.
  • Cooling down is very important. This is the phase where you systematically end your workout. Your recovery starts from this point.
  • Periodic massage — helps you relax the muscle and release toxins including exercise waste.

The author is a certified professional  fitness instructor, founder and master trainer at Rage Fitness and a fitness columnist who specialises in mixed  martial arts.