Going too hard on workouts can lead to over-training


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You’re achy, your head is pounding and your mouth is dry. Either you had a booze-soaked night out or jacked up the intensity of your workout and are feeling the effects of “over-reaching” or even worse, “over-training.”

Over-reaching is when you go too hard in a single workout or series of workouts and can take anywhere between two days to two weeks to recover. Over-training is more severe; it occurs when you stay in “beast mode” for an extended period of time — usually several months — without giving your body the chance to fully recover. If you over-reach and don’t give your body a chance the recover, it will lead to over-training.


Signs that you’re going too hard

Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing these symptoms. He or she may recommend adjusting your exercise schedule:

•    Pain in muscles and joints
•    Resting heart rate, blood pressure and metabolic rate are abnormally elevated
•    Feelings of fatigue; lack of motivation
•    Insomnia
•    Headaches
•    Fidgety, anxious
•    Insatiable thirst, dehydration
•    Decrease in body weight
•    Lowered immune system

Balancing act

Over-reaching can actually work to your benefit if balanced correctly.

“The three training parameters that dictate success for an endurance athlete are progression, overload and recovery,” wrote six-time Ironman world champion, Dave Scott for Active.com. “Without repeated days, weeks and months of workloads that break down and rebuild you, physiological progress would come to a standstill.”

According to an article in Triathlete magazine, before the over-reaching process gets out of hand, you can reduce your training load, enabling your body to fully recover from and adapt to the training stress of the preceding week to two weeks. A big boost in fitness usually follows. The important thing is to listen to your body, train progressively and plan recovery days and recovery weeks. [Talk to your doctor  — and trainer if your have one — before attempting!]


Avoiding the ‘exercise hangover’

Common causes of over-reaching, according to Scott, include:

  1. Too much too soon, such as a 10% to 20% increase in training volume over a three- to four-week period.
  2. Frequently combining two harder variables in one training session (e.g., combining a long run with challenging hills or a tempo session with speed work).
  3. Two or three high-intensity (i.e., near or above lactic threshold) workouts in one week on either the bike or a run.
  4. Not allowing two days of easier sessions between the challenging workouts (described in Nos. 2 and 3 above.)
  5. Overload in psychological or emotional stress in other facets of your life.
  6. Lack of sleep.
  7. Poor nutritional habits before, during or immediately after workouts.