Endurance Training: The Threat of Overtraining
By Rebecca Parsons
Do you pride yourself in being a dedicated athlete? You wake with the sun to log a training session before school or work, then charge down to the beach afterwards to put in another session until darkness lures you home? Got to put in the time to see results, right? Yes. But put in too much time and you could find yourself with a different set of results entirely, results you may not be so pleased with.
So how do you know if you are simply training hard or if you've become a victim of overtraining?
Overtraining often results in persistent muscle soreness, increased injuries, chronic fatigue, altered resting heart rate, change of appetite, constant thirst, insomnia, frequent illnesses, irritable personality, loss of concentration, lack of progress, lowered self-esteem, and even depression. If you find you are consistently experiencing any of the above symptoms, there's a good chance you are overtraining.
Luckily, overtraining is relatively easy to prevent and/or cure.
A key ingredient to a healthy training plan is rest. While resting may seem like it will impede your progress, it will actually do just the opposite. Taking one day off a week and spacing out your workouts gives your muscles a chance to repair, rebuild and strengthen. Rest days give the body a chance to adapt to the stress of exercise and an opportunity to replenish energy stores and repair damaged tissues. Without a chance to recover, your muscles and tissues will continue to breakdown, resulting in overuse injuries and lowering your overall performance.
Another easy way to avoid overtraining is to incorporate cross-training into your plan. If you're training for an upcoming distance race, that doesn't necessarily mean you should do distance paddles every day. Try mixing it up with some sprint workouts, standup surfing, swimming, gym time, running or yoga. Different workouts work different muscles groups, giving your body a chance to recover between workouts. If you are battling an injury, give the affected area a break and engage in low-impact activities until it has a chance to recover. You might even discover a new passion through your cross-training workouts.
Perhaps the most important rule to follow in training is to listen to your body. Your brain might tell you to charge hard and go, go, go, while your body might be trying to tell you to take it easy. If you're smart, you'll listen. It's good to establish a training plan and stick to it, but sometimes it just isn't going to work. Some days you'll have to call it quits earlier than expected to go home and rest, while others days you may surprise yourself by paddling farther or faster than you had planned to. And that's okay.
Allow your body time to rest, eat nutritious foods, stay hydrated, get plenty of sleep, and you just might find your overall fitness improving. Like everything in life, moderation is key.
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