If you clicked through to read this article chances are you are already aware of what overtraining is. You may already knowingly be doing it but ignoring the signs and consequences of your choices because the thought of doing anything less makes you anxious. Am I close?
I think many of us find it difficult accepting that how much volume and intensity is good for our body varies from person to person. Notice I said “is good for our body” not “what our body can push through”. There is a key difference.
I am sure if you’re a type A personality that has a little bit of a competitive streak in you then your mind has probably been ruling your body for many years when it comes to training. You have probably been complimented on your “determination”, your “discipline” and your “dedication” to the “grind” of a rigid exercise routine. Is this a reflection of a genuine goal in looking after your body with self love, kindness, and respect for yourself?
Do you feel you have to ”earn” respect from yourself and from those around you?
Is it an obligation and something that you feel is part of your identity?
If you stop exercising so much do you have fear around how this will affect your weight or body composition?
If you aren’t the one that is always in the gym, at a crossfit class or pounding the pavement with the best times or the longest distances, who will you be?
There is absolutely nothing wrong with having performance related goals in the gym, or in a particular sport but it does not mean that you escape the effects of taking it too far and the consequences of ignoring your body’s internal cues that something isn’t quite right.
All of the above questions I put to you are things I have battled with and definitely believed to be true at some point in time. I am not judging you. I am giving you an out. I am saying that this doesn’t have to be the way. You are not your schedule, you are not your pant size, you are not defined by numbers or measurements. You are uniquely, authentically, beautiful you. There is a person, a heart and a spirit behind the labels you may be giving yourself. Do not let that get lost in the process.
With that in mind I think it is important to have a list of the warning signs of overtraining. So here goes…
- Decreased performance
- Feeling a little bit crazy i.e. mood swings and irritability
- Weight gain
- Difficulty sleeping
- Low mood
- Changes in appetite
- Elevated resting heart rate
- Decrease in motivation and drive
Clearly the above symptoms are not ones that you want to continue long term. I have experienced this myself and it lead to thyroid issues, hair loss, decreased body temperature, adrenal fatigue and weight gain. All things that like you, I was trying very hard to avoid by training harder and by following the mantras of “just keep going” and “get it done”.
The road back from the outcomes of chronic overtraining is a long one. I encourage you to find the strength and courage to implement strategies that keep you accountable to looking after your body and avoiding that fate. It isn’t easy, I know. It is incredibly hard when the pressures of looking a certain way, doing a certain amount of activity or performing at your best week after week are constantly in your face. However, it is worth it.
So, what strategies can you use to avoid this situation? I am not going to give you the usual spiel on “make sure to take adequate rest days” (though that is good advice).
I think the problem lies in both why you are not willing to implement the changes and also a lack of a plan for when you do, rather than being ignorant to the fact that you need to rest.
So here are some strategies lovely human…
- Switch to making one of your training days an active rest day out in nature. This means going for a bush walk, an ocean swim, a leisurely bike ride, playing outside with the kids, or simply walking around the neighbourhood with a friend or family member.
- Implement ONE complete rest day. This means no crazy outdoor activities but maybe do some cooking for the week ahead or go out for lunch with a friend.
- Purchase a 1 month yoga pass to try out a local yoga studio. Aim to replace ¼ of your current training with yoga. This helps keep your body moving and deals with some of the anxiety you will inevitably feel from skipping out your intense training for that day.
- Decrease your sessions to be no longer than 1 hour.
- Tell a friend how you feel so you have support and accountability
- If you are a crossfitter, have a chat to your coach about how you are feeling so he can avoid pushing you harder during this time. He/she cannot support you in the best way possible if they are under the impression that you are feeling good.
- Do a social media clean out. Remove all fitspo containing crap from your feed. Including all messages of the nature that you need to “earn your body”, “not stop until you puke, faint or die”, or tell you that “strong is the new skinny”. You are just you, you are already beautiful without categorising yourself and without identifying with one way of being. You do not need to be the best, fastest, most dedicated to the sport or person in the gym everyday. That is not who you are. It does not define you.
- Stop hanging around people who make you feel like you must train a certain amount to gain respect, approval or inclusion. A note here to make sure that you are not projecting these thoughts onto other people too.
- Seek the help of a practitioner or a close group of people on a similar journey.
These are all great starting steps. There are plenty more but I found these to be the most useful for me when I was in the depths of overtraining. I was not ready for anything further and it is really important to work with yourself from where you are at right now. Small changes over a long period are incredibly effective.
Until next time,
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