Did you know it’s possible to over-train? Sports coach, George Vlismas, explains how, and tells you what to do to get the better results with smarter effort.
One of the biggest problems facing men’s health, athletes, bodybuilders or anyone, in fact, who exercises can be over-training. The lure of massive muscle gains, a lean-ripped body, fast weight loss or fat loss, lead to them to train as much as possible to get the fastest results.
But this can be counter-productive. Training too much – too often at too high intensity – can lead to over-training, or ‘over-training syndrome’ (OS). A study published on the NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information) describes this as: “Over-training Syndrome (OS) has been described as chronic fatigue, burnout and staleness, where an imbalance between training/competition, versus recovery occurs”.
So basically it’s when the body has not been given enough time to recuperate after the stresses of exercise. When lifting weights for example, you cause micro-tears in the fibers of your muscles, and those muscles need time to recover and repair so they can grow and adapt to the load you’re demanding for them. Continuing to exercise without proper recovery time can lead you to reach a point of diminishing returns due to chronic physical stress caused by over-training.
Now, this doesn’t of course mean that you don’t have to put out in plenty of effort to get good results – whatever your goals are, muscle building, weight loss, fitness, strength gain or a combination of all of these, you need to train hard and train consistently to get those results, that’s a given.
What is key is finding a good balance between optimal exercise sessions and adequate rest periods to achieve those results you’re after.
This article gives you seven strategies you can use to do exactly that.
The Negative Impact of Over-training
There are a number of ways over-training can negatively affect men’s health – It can lead to high blood pressure, loss of appetite, sleeplessness, tiredness, a tendency to become irritable, as well as keeping the resting heart rate high. If you can relate to any of these symptoms, then it’s possible you’re in a state of over-training, and you need to re-evaluate how you exercise. The tips below will help you.
1. Get Proper Nutrition
Nutrition is first on the list as it’s not a tool only used for weight loss and muscle gain, but it’s also the most important part of helping your body recover. It provides your body with the raw materials it needs for full recovery – to provide energy, to regulate hormone levels, to create new tissue.
Like anything, prevention is the best cure, and a study in the Journal of Sports Sciences shows that carbohydrates play a large part in this. Generally it’s not a good idea to not let yourself go hungry anyway (you can avoid this by eating regularly, every 2-3 hours,) but the absence of carbohydrates particularly can cause your body to get into a catabolic state where it starts using your muscle mass for energy.
So eat right – to recover right.
2. Time is of the Essence
Exercise time for your body is important for many reasons: help to maintain fitness, to help with weight loss, to lower the risk of some diseases, to basically help your body stay healthy, fit and strong. But rest time is equally, if not more important – without adequate breaks between exercise sessions, over-training can result.
What is adequate recovery time? Experts recommend recovery time of between 48-72 hours. Generally the younger you are the less time it takes for your muscles to recover, but whatever your age, continuing to exercise without long enough break periods will lead to slow results and poor performance – as sure fire recipe for falling into the trap of over-training.
3. Get the Right Amount of Sleep
Taking time off from exercising is one thing, but getting enough sleep is entirely another. Sleep is central to exercise recovery – and to men’s health in general. The NHLBI (National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute) reports that deep sleep triggers hormones that boost muscle mass and help repair cells and tissues in the body, so getting at least the recommended 7 hours of sleep a night is important for full recovery.
4. Keep it Varied
Another way to aid your muscles to recover during exercise is to vary your exercises. Introducing new exercises to your routines forces muscles to react to different stimuli and this promotes new growth. You could even have variation with the same exercise – by introducing periodisation. This is where you vary the intensity of your workout in planned phases – so basically you exercise strategically so various muscle groups can recover during the less intense periods.
5. Feel the Rub
This has to be my favorite – getting a massage is a great way to help muscles recover and relieve post-workout soreness. Deep tissue massage is also believed to increase blood flow, to reduce muscle tension and also help remove toxins such as lactic acid. But perhaps the biggest benefit of massage is psychological – a study on the NCBI reports: “The majority of research on psychological effects of massage has concluded that massage produces positive effects on recovery (psychological mechanisms.)” So use massage to help create an overall sense of well-being and feeling good. After all….isn’t that what it’s all about?
6. Pace Yourself
Keep your workouts short, sharp and to the point. As far as men’s health is concerned, studies have shown that over-training can lead to hormonal changes in the body – after about an hour testosterone levels start to decrease while cortisol levels begin to increase – not a good combination as it can lead to protein tissue breakdown. The longer you stay in the gym or you carry on exercising, the bigger the risk of over-training, so keep your sessions to under an hour.
7. Know Yourself
Perhaps this strategy underlines all the others – ultimately, you know your body better than anyone. So listen to it. If you still feel sore or fatigued, or just feel that things aren’t right, then your body is trying to tell you something. If you aren’t making the progress you expect, can’t surpass (or even match) the performance of your last sessions, then its more than likely that you haven’t fully recovered yet. So take a break – and give it your all next time.
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Article originally appeared at OnlyMensHealth.com
Photo credit: Flickr/RobertoRizzato