I’ve been thinking a lot about overtraining over the past couple of weeks, especially since I’ve started cross-training with the Insanity program, so in an effort to say actually-useful things, I thought I’d share some of that with y’all!
Overtraining Feels Awful.
Overtraining is what happens when you’re training so hard that your body can’t recover fast enough to keep up with it. It’s not a good feeling, either–it happened to me years ago, when I was still deep into my wushu training. We had a big tournament in Berkeley coming up, and we were having extra practices already, and I threw in additional cross-training on top of that, and didn’t give myself enough rest time.
Things seemed okay, at first, but then, the overtraining hit–I was sore, exhausted, and my legs started to feel like dead weights. I could actually tell that my muscles’ reaction time was slower than normal, and I couldn’t move as quickly or cleanly as I wanted to, no matter how hard I tried.
When you’re overtrained, you’ll feel awful, and you’ll also be more prone to injury. The only real cure for it is rest, which, of course, is the absolute last thing you want to do when you’re preparing for a tournament, or bout season, or whatever other sporting competition you’ve been training for. Avoid it!
You don’t have to just keep doing what you’re doing,or be fearful that you’re training too much, when you’re only working out a couple times a week. There *are* ways to amp up your training without becoming overtrained, and they’re tactics I’ve been using to keep myself in check, as I continue with the Insanity workouts.
Always, ALWAYS plan for at least one rest day every week. That’s a true rest day, as in one day when you do NO exercise. You gain strength during the repair process after your workout, so your body needs that full rest day to repair itself. I plan my workouts to make sure I have at least one day of the week where I don’t have derby practice or a cross-training workout, and I take it as a complete day off: no afternoon bike rides or long hikes, no yoga classes, nothing.
Ramp up your training more gradually. The reason why I can handle a program like Insanity, on top of 4x/week derby practices? I’d already spent months doing other intense forms of cross-training, along with derby. I had to work up to it, too: at first, I’d only cross-train on my off days, and as I got stronger, I started to add strength training to a day or two of the week when I also had skate practice, until I got to where I am now.
Sudden increases in your training can be dangerous, because your body’s just not used to that much intensity, and it won’t be able to recover as quickly. So, hey, it’s okay to take it slow at first.
Know your limits, and adjust accordingly. If you feel totally dead after your workouts, or even during your workouts, it’s okay to scale it back a bit, shorten a workout, or even add an extra rest day to your week, until you adjust to your workouts.
One thing that the Insanity program stresses, which I totally agree with, is to, “never sacrifice form,” and take breaks when you need to. If you can’t make it through an entire set, take a 5-second beat to rest, and get back into things. It’s better to do 30 squats with good form, than to kill yourself by sloppily trying to do 60 squats.
Similarly, you’ll be happier doing one less workout in a given week, or making a workout shorter once in a while, than forcing yourself to do too much and subsequently practicing bad habits. Be aware of what you can do, and do those things with as much strength and efficiency as your body will allow you to–you’ll get more out of it in the end!