By Ryan Unverzagt
This month’s article is for all you hard-core fitness enthusiasts who constantly workout to the point of no return. Don’t get me wrong, I promote physical activity on most, if not all days of the week. These activities can include leisurely walks, bike rides, roller blading, or taking the family to a water park. However, structured exercise (in which there are specific, measurable parameters such as intensity, duration, sets and reps) should be performed in moderation to prevent overtraining. There are very few personal trainers who will admit that more exercise is not always better.
Rest and recovery are probably the most overlooked aspects of any fitness program, even above flexibility. A little bit of R & R is important because you want to prevent needless injuries, burnout or staleness, and avoid the overtraining syndrome. Here is a list of symptoms associated with overtraining:
- Performance plateau, followed by decreased strength & endurance
- Decrease in lean body mass
- Decreased appetite
- Less energy & desire to exercise
- Interrupted sleep patterns
- Excessive muscle soreness
- Increased heart rate at rest and during exercise
Without adequate rest, there will not be positive adaptations to exercise. Exercise is a stressor to the body, so what you do between workouts is just as vital as what you do during your workout. During that time between exercising, your body is trying to regenerate, recover, and ultimately adapt to handle the physiological stress placed upon it. Just because you had an awesome workout doesn’t mean you should sabotage it by not taking care of yourself until the next workout.
Overtraining is a serious issue for the extreme exerciser. Here are a few suggestions for meaningful rest and recovery:
- Nutrition: This is the first thing you need to address. It’s true that you are what you eat and the best time to eat for recovery is within one hour after finishing a workout. You should include a mixture of protein and carbohydrates. Try a turkey and cheese sandwich, or cottage cheese with fruit or sliced tomatoes, or just a glass of skim milk does the trick.
- Sleep: Get as much of this as you can because your body recovers best with rest! Try for at least 8 hours a night. If your schedule allows, take a 20-minute nap during the day too. (Just not at work!)
- Add in a few light workouts: Yes. It’s ok to lighten up the intensity a bit. This way you get a chance to recover while still staying active. Even professional and Olympic athletes take advantage of this strategy to help them prepare for an important game or event.
- Listen to your body: Don’t ignore the symptoms listed above because you could end up ultimately giving up on exercise, which is by far the worse consequence of all!