When was the last time you left the gym feeling refreshed, rejuvenated, and ready to take on the next challenge? If you can’t remember finishing a workout with something left in the tank, that’s a problem.
“Working out should be about building yourself up,” says Stefan Underwood, director of continuous improvement at EXOS. “Intensity is king, but consistency rules. If you’re so sore you can’t walk, you’re probably not going to work out tomorrow and that hurts you in the long run.”
That said, Underwood emphasizes that it’s not that you should never experience fatigue or soreness but instead focus on creating balance over time. “Many people make the mistake of placing all the value of a workout on how hard it was,” he says. “But you can get just as much out of a workout that focuses on recovery.”
Whether you’re training for a marathon, looking to lose weight or gain muscle, or simply making improvements to your lifestyle, it’s important to incorporate different training methods within your training program to avoid overtraining. Your body will benefit from a healthy balance of high-intensity training, strength training, and recovery activities such as mobility and stability work and breath control.
Because this can be a change for people who are used to giving 110 percent, 100 percent of the time, Underwood suggests that instead of using intensity as your barometer for success, you think about each workout as one part of a comprehensive plan. After each workout, ask yourself, “What value did this workout bring to my plan for overall health and fitness?”
An effective training program balances intensity with recovery, which allows your body to build endurance and durability over time so you’re not constantly breaking yourself down. For those who are committed to an overall lifestyle change and not looking for a quick fix, this concept is easy to understand. But in an age where each new workout fad promises real results in less time, this mentality can be hard to achieve.
“For many people, the challenge is reframing their mindset around a training program that takes time to build, which can sometimes delay the physical, visible results they’re looking for,” explains Tristan Rice, a performance specialist at EXOS. But in the end, focusing on consistency over intensity pays off. Not only will you become more resilient and less injury-prone, but you’ll begin to see better, more sustainable results over time.
How do you know if you’re overtraining or doing too much? Listen to your body. “Soreness alone isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but extreme soreness combined with trouble sleeping and changes in mood could indicate something’s not right,” says Rice. And even the smallest change or combination of changes in how you feel can impact your overall health and performance. According to ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal, “Too much overload and/or not enough recovery can result in both physiological and psychological symptoms that limit performance.”
It takes time to become in tune with your body and how you should feel before, during, and after a workout. And because everyone is different, it’s important to note any change from your own normal.
Not sure if you’re overtraining? Here are six signs you may be weighing down your week.
1. Extreme soreness.
You’re feeling excessive, persistent soreness after a workout that you usually breeze through.
2. Disruption in sleep patterns.
Suddenly you’re not sleeping enough, sleeping too much, sleeping the same amount of time but still feeling exhausted, or having trouble falling asleep.
3. Altered appetite.
You’re craving sweets, constantly feeling thirsty, overeating, or losing your appetite altogether.
4. Change in energy levels.
You’re making it through the morning but experience an afternoon crash that’s out of the ordinary.
5. Mood changes.
You’re feeling bummed, overly stressed, or just can’t seem to get excited or motivated.
6. Decreased desire to train.
You dread your next training session, tempted to skip workouts more than usual, or feel like you’re forcing yourself into the gym.
If you find yourself experiencing two or more of these symptoms, consider talking to a professional who can help adjust your training program to your needs.
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