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Understanding the dangers of Over-reaching and Overtraining

Understanding the dangers of Over-reaching and Overtraining

As you work out and train there will be times where you’re hit with bouts of fatigue. Fatigue can last a few days or even as a long as a few months. Fatigue is generally a result of overtraining although it can be a symptom of other underlying conditions. Fatigue can also be the result of emotional, psychological or physical overloading or a combination of any of these things. In any instance fatigue is no good for your fitness and exercise regime.

Anyone can be hit by fatigue as a result of any of these factors. Endurance athletes are particularly at risk to overloading and overtraining as progressive training is often followed by incomplete recovery and the body fails to keep up.

Over-reaching is the scientific term for describing short-term physical overload that is usually managed away within a few short days. Over-reaching which isn’t properly managed leads to overtraining. To avoid both conditions you have to recognise the importance of recovery time.

First let’s look at the elements of your workout which can develop into over-reaching. Over-reaching is most commonly caused by:

  • Too much too soon exercise – you need to increase your training volume slowly in small percentile intervals of a three to four week period.
  • Two or three high-intensity workouts in the same week
  • Not having two days of easier sessions between high intensity training
  • Emotional or psychological stresses in other areas of your life
  • Lack of sleep
  • Imbalanced diet and poor nutritional habits
  • Committing to and taking part in too many race/marathon events.

Next we’re going to take a closer look at how to identify an over-reached body. The symptoms are not always seen in all people and below is just an example of some of the key indicators that your body may have over-reached.

Experts believe that your morning pulse rate can be a good indicator of over-reaching. Studies confirm that a pulse rate 4-6 beats above your baseline normal can be evidence of fatigue. It’s the first warning bell that a rest day is required to bring your pulse back to normal. A definite indication of over-reaching is an inability to bring your resting pulse rate back in line.

This inability to regulate your pulse rate usually comes in conjunction with a general muscular heaviness you’ll feel throughout your body. This is usually felt through stiffness in joints and even if you warm-up for longer than usual your muscles will still feel heavy.

A common experience post-exercise is to feel delayed muscle soreness up to 60 hours after exercise. However if this soreness is extended beyond what you’d consider usual this can be indicative of over-reaching.

Other key symptoms can include a lack of sharpness and ability during workout, disrupted or compromised workouts and a decrease in your body weight. If any of these symptoms resonate and you ignore them you run a very high risk of overtraining which is one of the most severe states of fatigue.

Plan your Regime to Avoid Overtraining

If you regularly experience bouts of over-reaching that isn’t too much to worry about but if over-training occurs and the symptoms return or linger within a couple of weeks then it’s time to redesign and overhaul your training regime.

To recover from over-reaching you need to:

  1. Identify your symptoms
  2. Take two complete days of rest from all exercise
  3. Spend three days after this carrying out only light exercise for a maximum of 50 minutes a day.
  4. After these five days are completed you should be able to resume your normal training regime.

You should notice the symptoms of over-reaching dramatically decrease during your ‘easy’ three training days. If not then chances are you’re on the verge of over-training.

The symptoms of overtraining are very close to over-reaching except the risks of dangerous fatigue are much higher. When suffering from overtraining you will often experience signs of improper hormone activity including persistent colds or long-term muscular soreness.

Overtraining requires a long and strict recovery period of up to twelve weeks and some individuals may even need longer to return to their former fitness. Here are four key tips to help you overcome overtraining:

  1. Speak to a specialist. Trained sports therapists will be able to look into every element of your condition and recommend a suitable recovery period.
  2. Take the rest you need. Rest may mean you can’t exercise at all or could be limited to only light exercises. Follow your specialist’s instructions to the letter.
  3. Sleep as much as you can. Regulating your sleep at night will go a long way to helping your body back to its best. Aim for between 7 and 9 hours every night.
  4. Plot and plan your return to exercise. You need to plan a logical, step-by-step routine to get you back to training. Gradually returning to levels which feel challenging make take between six weeks and six months but this return is essential to avoid further time out.

To avoid months out of the gym and a serious dent in your long-term goal it’s important to keep the early symptoms of over-reaching in mind. If you’re always working with these in mind then you’ll avoid the dangers of overtraining and your body will be gradually reaching new levels of fitness without going through the discomfort of fatigue.

Recovery is as integral to your fitness regime as the training itself and make sure you build recovery days into your weekly schedule.