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Picture this: You’re training hard and pushing yourself at the gym. During one training session — a day you ignore your increasing feelings of fatigue — you injure yourself and face the unthinkable: no more working out.
For many women who train hard, that image of literally hanging up the towel (even temporarily) is unimaginable. And yet keep pushing yourself day after day and more often than not, you risk being sidelined with an injury.
How to avoid this scenario? Learn the art of moderation.
After all, you use moderation in other areas of your life: It allows you to indulge in the occasional glass of wine, porterhouse steak and even a celebratory slab of cheesecake. But there’s still a lingering idea in gyms across America in which the rules of moderation simply don’t apply when it comes to working out — that a daily regimen of marathon workouts that don’t leave you exhausted is no true workout regimen at all.
While athletes and competitors may believe that working their bodies beyond the breaking point will give them an edge, research from the Journal of Exercise Physiology revealed that athletes who exercise to the extreme are likely to experience a host of disturbances that are brought on by overtraining syndrome.
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“Overtraining has some very specific physiological consequences,” says Dr. Dan Cooper, lead physician at Synergy Sports Wellness Institute in Tampa, Florida. “Some of these consist of the chronic elevation of stress hormones, oxidative stress, muscle and connective tissue breakdown, and systemic inflammation.” The most common outward effects of overtraining include excessive fatigue, persistent soreness/pain and a decrease in performance.
Rest Is The Panacea
Athletes, however, are not the only people who suffer from overtraining syndrome. In fact, it can happen to anyone with a rigorous workout schedule, such as five to six times per week for at least 45 minutes. And the typical cause of overtraining is inadequate recovery time. “If you train hard without getting enough recovery time, eventually your body will rebel,” says fitness trainer Alysia Gadson, president and co-founder of LiveFit Revolution. “It’s when we rest that we get stronger.”
A good rule of thumb is to rest your body for 24 to 48 hours between workouts. And don’t ignore warning signs by “pushing through” the pain. “Several years ago I had shin splints,” says Pilates instructor Marie Delcioppo. “I refused to rest until I collapsed teaching class one day. The shin splits had gotten so bad I had actually fractured both tibias.” The fractures led to doing hard time in leg casts for more than two months. “We seem to believe that giving into pain is a sign of weakness,” Delcioppo says. “Giving your body a day or two off to recover is better — and cheaper — than winding up severely injured and in an orthopedic surgeon’s office.”
See AlsoLearn the Art of Moderation
The best remedy for overtraining is getting help from knowledgeable fitness trainers. These experts can recommend a workout/recovery program that works best for you and ensure that your body will stay strong enough to endure whatever physical challenge you decide to conquer next. People who overtrain because they refuse to rest their bodies, however, may benefit from additional assistance. Regular visits to a counselor or therapist can help relieve those feelings of panic or anxiety that surround the idea of taking a break from their beloved workout time. “If someone is unable to stop exercising out of guilt or fear of losing muscle or gaining fat, he or she should at least consider talking to a healthcare provider,” says Dr. Charlie Seltzer, a board certified physician in obesity medicine.