Austin, Texas is my happy place!
Continually ranked as one of the top cities to live…be an entrepreneur…be happy…and get fit…it’s no wonder approximately 150 people move here EVERY DAY!
That being said, the opportunities for health and wellness are plentiful!
- Local grocers with farm to table ingredients and daily Farmer’s Markets
- Whole Foods’ WHOLE WORLD (i.e. the flagship original headquarters)
- Gluten-Free and Vegetarian menus in many restaurants
- Holistic practitioners for every modality (functional medicine, nutrition, massage, acupuncture, Reiki, etc.)
- Natural hike and bike trails throughout the city
- And thousands (yes, thousands according to Yelp alone) of unique fitness businesses and opportunities (from Sky Candy aerial acrobatics, to bootcamps, dance classes, yoga studios on every main street, CrossFit boxes, pools and outdoor swimming spots, functional fitness facilities, cycling studios, running clubs, and traditional globo gyms).
We live in a small bubble here in Austin, compared to many of the rest of the world where the obesity and diabetes epidemics are far more rampant; the closest thing to a gluten free item on a menu is to request ‘no bun please’; fast food restaurants outnumber farm-to-table fare; and couch potato-ing is an every day activity.
Sooooo, when it comes to the buzzword termed ‘OVERTRAINING’ (i.e. exercising too much), the notion may seem slightly foreign to many.
Heck, did you see the article in the New York Times about Coca Cola’s latest health advice last week?
Coke’s answer to eliminating the obesity and Diabetes epidemics in our country?
NOT necessarily cutting out the sugar or nixing soft-drinks, BUT instead EXERCISING MORE.
In other words: “More exercise is the answer to our health problems.”
So, really, how could exercise be a ‘bad’ or harmful thing?
While a vast majority of our society suffers from a massive physical activity deficit, a great amount of fitness enthusiasts actually face the opposite danger (overtraining).
(Been there, got the t-shirt!)
And if you love exercise, or understand what that ‘runner’s high’ feels like, or have goals and aspirations to ‘get better’, make a change or keep fit and healthy—overtraining can easily sneak into the picture, unarmed.
First things first, it’s vital to define what ‘overtraining’ actually means.
In layman’s terms: Overtraining may describe anytime your training is working against you, and where adding more of it makes the problem worse.
A few ways overtraining may be working against you:
- Plateaus in the gym
- Weights or feats that used to be normal or easy for you are now more difficult
- Lingering apathy about training sessions that once excited you
- Fatigue throughout the day
- Wired and tired at night (disrupted sleep)
- Lack of appetite
- Lowered energy
- Increased injuries or illness
- Decreased libido
- More heightened emotions
- Less confidence in yourself
- Increased irritability or moodiness
- Joint pain, stiffness
- Lack of delayed onset muscle soreness (that ‘pump’ you used to feel at one time)
…Just to name a few.
So how do you fall into overtraining in the first place?
After all, there is a VERY fine line between pushing yourself a little extra in order to see growth and/or gains (i.e. going to failure, incorporating more intense sessions, etc.) and completely falling into overtraining.
Essentially: There is no real thing as ‘overtraining’—INSTEAD, the problem you really have on your hands is a problem of ‘under-recovering.’
If you train SMART, and ensure adequate recovery to support the next sessions or days of exercise, then you are practicing self-care (ie. eating plenty to restore lost glycogen, mobilizing and stretching appropriately, warming up and cooling down, enjoying your R&R away from the gym, sleeping 7-9 hours).
On the contrary, if you train with out abandon—not really listening or caring for your body, but instead going into auto-pilot and chipping away at whatever workout(s) you have to attack…therein lies a problem—a big problem.
In short: Overtraining is REALLY an issue of DISCONNECT.
- Disconnect with oneself and your own body (its needs, wants and the proper caring of it to restore and regenerate between exercise sessions or routines throughout your week, etc.).
- Disconnect with the permission (that you deserve) to not always be so hard on yourself, or that voice that tells you that you ‘have to accomplish XYZ or else”…
Here is an breakdown of a few signs (some mentioned above) that may indicate an UNDER-RECOVERING ISSUE (i.e. overtraining), and a few tips for how to re-center yourself to a place so you can physically THRIVE—inside and outside the gym:
- You’ve hit a wall—and been stuck there for now some time. Or worse, you’ve hit that wall—and simply just don’t really care anymore. In the gym, you continue to use the same weights, for the same reps, for the same amount of sets; or opt for the same ol’ same ol’ routines in your conditioning efforts, day in and day out—and while you are getting in a workout, you really aren’t getting in a workout (growing, changing, improving, working towards anything). Strength, endurance and performance gains are miniscule; as are any body composition changes or shifts you’ve been wanting to make (hitting a wall on your weight loss, weight gain or muscle gains).
- Loss of Appetite. We talked about this some yesterday, but overtraining can blunt your appetite cues, primarily because your cortisol levels are elevated (i.e. exercise=stress, and when our bodies are stressed, the last thing they want to do is digest, as digestion occurs in a parasympathetic state). It is crucial if you are training regularly, you are fueling the ‘machine’ with balance throughout the days (protein, fats and veggies, with your starchier carbohydrates around your exercise sessions, and plenty of water—another appetite stimulator).
- Disordered Eating Habits. Notice I did not say eating disorders per-say. Rather, when we are under-recovered (i.e. not enough food to support all the exercise we are doing), we can become a little more crazed about food—more obsessed with planning it, perfectionistic about it, think about it more often, etc. Subconsciously, the increased thoughts about food can be one way of our body telling us: “Feed me!” Or, “Please sir, can I have some more?” If you want to be an athlete—or at least train like one—eat like one too.
- Hormonal Imbalances. Namely adrenal insufficiency. Your adrenals are what help regulate your hormonal BALANCE. However, when they are taxed with extra stress from training too much (with lack of recovery), this throws that whole balance thing completely out the window. This point ties right in with those elevated cortisol levels mentioned above. On the body composition front, too much cortisol increases insulin resistance and fat deposition; for others, too much cortisol sends their body into a catabolic state—as in your body starts eating its own muscle or strength gains become nearly impossible. In addition, since your testosterone and estrogen balances also get out of whack with the elevated cortisol, you are more at risk for amenorrhea and irregular cycles…PLUS affects to your overall mood. You may find that things that did not once upset you, suddenly make you more weepy (i.e. spilling coffee on your shirt, your significant other forgetting to pick up the dry-cleaning, hunger, etc.), or for others, they notice an increase in their irritability (little things get under their skin more). Underrecovering basically throws your body out of balance—and those hormones control a lot of our daily moods and metabolic processes.
- Frequent Injuries, Tweaks and/or Illness. Lately it seems like one thing after another—a stress fracture here, a tweaked back there, down with a little 48-hour cough there. Your body is speaking…are you listening?
- Feeling Like Crap. Low energy levels, fatigue, apathy, depleted, tired, drained—you name it…under-recovering just does not leave you that feeling of AWESOME post-workout that you used to get (i.e. endorphins). Exercise generally ELEVATES your mood and feeling of wellness; however, if it’s having the reverse effect, chances are you may be under-recovered.
Any of these resonate with you?
So what to do from here?
It doesn’t mean you have to throw in the towel completely—just re-work what you are doing. Take a step back. Come from a different approach. Here are a few ideas:
- Write it down! It’s time to go back to the drawing boards and re-write some goals if you haven’t in awhile. Why are you really training? What are some things you would consider working towards? Who do you want to be? What do you want to accomplish? Have fun with this process! Get clear on at least 1-3 goals that intertwine with your training (could be as simple as “have fun”) and begin to see yourself achieving those.
- WWHMD? What would healthy me do? Ask yourself that when the temptation to push it over the edge day in and day out comes up; and when you are caring for your body outside of the gym. If you are going to train ‘hard’ or do two-a-days or run miles and miles, then how is healthy you (the person you want to be) going to take care of you? Let that question guide you.
- Re-frame Your Mindset. Instead of seeing your backing off as a ‘sign of weakness’, think of it as self-care and enhancing your fitness levels. The power of positive thinking (and seeing the glass as half-full—not half-empty) will get you further towards those goals!
- Recruit Your Team. Consider working with a coach for a time who can help you structure a program that meets your goals, as well as offers you an outsiders’ perspective to combat that little voice in your head that’s been coaching you into under-recovering.
- Have fun with it. Training is meant to be FUN! It’s meant to ENHANCE your life—not weigh it down. On that note, exercise should be the LAST thing from a chore—especially for those of us who already do ‘love’ it. Consider spicing it up—get out of the mundane routine, or funk you’ve been in. Check out a group class, try your hand at aerial yoga, put some good ol’ yoga in your life, get out on the Paddleboard or outside the gym in the park for a sweat sesh with the pull-up bar outside, pushups, squats and situps…the world is your oyster.
- Active Rest Day. Something I’ve incorporated into my weekly routine is a day devoted to recovery and restoration. A swim, a hike, a walk with a friend…coupled with intentional meal prep (trying out a couple new recipes I’ve been wanting to try)…catching up on some leisure reading I’ve been meaning to do…working on my own book…extra mobility work…a lighter, bodyweight style workout…you get the gist. Taking it easy is actually REFRESHING for both the body and the mind.
Exercise DOES do a body good…just make sure you stay connected to THYSELF.
Here are the workouts for the week! You don’t have to do every day—these are just some examples to give you inspiration—away from the StairMaster, Treadmill, same ol’ weight routine, or any other ho-hum routine you do day in and day out. Variety is the spice of life!
Weekly Workouts, August 19-August 25
30 Calorie Row
30 Hang Cleans
5/5 Dumbbell Snatch
10 Toes to Bar (or V-Ups)
15 Box Jumps
-Rest 2 Minutes-
8 Kettlebell Swings
8 Box Jumps
13 Dumbbell Deadlift
8 Push-press (dumbbells)
2K Row or 1-mile Run
3 x 1-minute Rounds for Time:
1-minute Chin-ups (modification: assisted or ring rows)
1-minute Box Jumps