Overtraining: a physical, behavioral, and emotional condition that occurs when the volume and intensity of an individual's exercise exceeds their recovery capacity. Common symptoms: persistent muscle soreness, persistent fatigue, reduced heart rate variability, increased incidence of injuries, irritability, depression, mental breakdown, elevated resting heart rate.
“That won’t happen to me.” “I love working out!” “I’ll never overtrain, I’ll stop myself before I do.” “ I won’t get burnt out.” “I would just take a rest day.” “I’m not going to get injured, I don’t do anything stupid.” “I would push through it.” “Is overtraining real?”
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On any given day (between my three jobs and training clients) I train two or three times, from strength to calisthenics to cardio. I stretch, hydrate, and challenge myself constantly. If I’m still for longer than 10 minutes, I get so restless I have to go for a walk. My work environments are super supportive, always asking me how training is going, what race I "crushed" last weekend, or what some healthy alternative snacks are...
But, every athlete has an “off-day.” Sometimes you push through and go to the gym anyway. Maybe its a mental off-day and you stretch and relax through yoga. And maybe its a nutritional off day where you ask yourself if that ice cream, pizza, or popcorn is worth caving in for. I think I can count all of my “off-days” during the past year on one hand. Any longer than two days of rest and I want to run a marathon (that explains a lot, huh?). OCR has no “off-season,” though - it’s a constant go-go-go sport, where if you’re not on the podium, you’re not working hard enough.
For whatever reason, back-to-back Tuxedo weekends broke me a little bit on the inside. Maybe it was the terrain, the new obstacles, or maybe it was racing the same course three times. It could be monotony in my workout plan or my diet, and me wanting more. It’s not that I don’t have a “desire” to work out. I want to train, push hard, whatever… I just know that once I start a session, I won’t be happy with my results. My legs won’t be powerful enough, I won’t get enough reps in, my head won’t be in it. I’ll finish my workout unsatisfied and continue to be in pain from head to toe, without feeling the benefit of any of it.
Those of you who know me well know that admitting this goes against every fiber of my being.
It almost hurts to say.
In the past year or so, I’ve battled a bunch of injuries that really set me back physically and mentally. Nine times out of ten, I am the first one to tell you to buck up and get over it, but when something more serious arises, I have learned that it is best to take care of it right away. In the past year or so, I’ve torn muscles, fractured bones, strained and sprained ankles and wrists, and started to feel the pressure from old gymnastics injuries coming back to haunt me. Most recently, I am overcoming (/learning to live with) a strained hamstring, cysts on my wrist, arthritis in my hands and osteoarthritis in my knees, athletic-induced asthma, and stress fractures in both my feet. Glutton for punishment, over here.
I could reflect back and get frustrated with all the times in training and during my racing career that I made a careless decision; pushed too hard when I should have been resting, didn’t fuel or hydrate my body properly given the demands I placed on it, continued even though I was hypothermic… but then I wouldn’t be moving forward. The past is the past, and those decisions made me the strong athlete that I am today. As one of my friends reminded me, and as Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.” Applying that here, I havent failed as an athlete. I have just successfully identified new roadblocks on my fitness journey, obstacles that I need time and support to overcome.
I am not a special case. I have friends out there in the running and OCR community who are feeling the pain from past injuries or overcoming their recent stressors. “Injuries” are common to athletes, almost like a side effect of what we do. We put our bodies through the ultimate test on an almost weekly basis throughout the (never-ending) season, and yet we are still surprised when things like this happen.
So what’s my “cure” for this overtraining bug I caught? Simple. Bring it back to the basics. Turn training into something fun again, practice sports I love to play, and just have fun with it all…
If you’re experiencing any of the above physical and mental symptoms of overtraining or fighting to rest with an injury, I know how you feel. And after a bunch of research, I have a plan to follow. Get in touch with me and we'll overcome this obstacle together. It’s never over ‘til you say it’s over!