Let me start out by preaching a bit more about recording your workouts. The key to assessing your fitness and matching it up with how you feel is being able to look at what you’ve been doing. That leads us to today’s topic, are you Overtraining or Undertraining? Specifically, if you’re overtraining how can you fix it?
What does overtraining look like?
Constantly working at one level/speed/intensity is the enemy here. The goal for each workout is to constantly challenge yourself, and one way to measure that is with total workout time. Remember, it’s more beneficial to work very hard for 30 seconds then rest for a set amount of time, then to keep chipping away at something as slow as a turtle (and never moving past that movement). Now this doesn’t mean there isn’t something in working on new skills and staying mentally tough during the workout. This really comes down to accountability, specifically in terms of goal-setting. I’ll go into all of that fun stuff another time, but for now back to overtraining.
It might seem counterintuitive, but working hard for a very short term, unrealistic goal is a huge waste of time. Sarah brought up the perfect example the other day, how many people really believe crushing yourself this week will give you a six pack to rock in your bathing suit THIS weekend? If that were the case, everyone would be out there running their butts off. We all know those things have to be earned over time, and to accumulate that time at the gym you need to show up on a regular basis and stay healthy. You should be looking at time spent in the gym as a long term commitment, not just coming in to crush your body, then having a hard time making it the classes the rest of the week. One of the biggest negatives of overdoing is high cortisol levels, which can then be compounded by bad habits. There’s a great article that explains this really well (http://chriskresser.com/why-you-may-need-to-exercise-less), and summarizes some of the issues associated with high cortisol: “can increase your risk for a variety of health issues, such as sleep disturbances, digestive issues, depression, weight gain, and memory impairment. Excess cortisol also encourages fat gain,particularly around the abdomen.” Here are a couple of tips for getting off the overtraining train:
1) Scale your workouts
2) Plan your rest days
3) Get as much sleep as possible
4) Stick to the plan!
Even just changing up one of those things will make a huge difference, and remember, there is no way to lose here! A lot of the time we’re too harsh on ourselves, and if our plan changes up a little bit we throw everything we learned out the window. Just do the best you can, and when in doubt go back to basics (sleep, eat real food, be active)!
How is this a path to Undertraining?
There are two distinct ways in my mind to get into the undertraining zone: A) Overtraining and B) Lack of progress with movements. If you’re overtraining some of your week, it seems easier to take too many days off. This is sometimes very helpful when you’re body needs rest, but don’t make this a habit of 3 days on 4 days off every single week. Undertraining could also be caused by frustration with some of the movements, don’t EVER let this keep you from coming to the gym that day. Being forced to work on things you’re not great at should be what keeps you coming back for more. Plus you can always look around and realize the thing you’re dreading might be someone else’s favorite exercise. Try to feed off their energy and push through no matter what it takes!
The Mental Game
Moral of the story, you don’t have to crush your body every day just to feel like you worked hard. There are so many little things to work on during each class, focus on something small and achievable, so you’ll be able to workout more often and feel better in the long run!