Avoiding Overtraining: 9 Foolproof Ways Out of the Performance Trap
Part 1 of this series of articles was about clearly identifying overtraining. Part 2 of this series of articles is all about avoiding overtraining. You will learn five bulletproof strategies to avoid overtraining.
A lot doesn’t always help a lot when training.
For example, overtraining can cause you to gain fat.
Despite an insane amount of training.
Do you know the symptoms of overtraining? Good.
Today is about DOING something about it:
- How to avoid overtraining.
- 5 Reliable overtraining insurance policies that won’t cost you a penny.
- The cart is already stuck? 4 foolproof ad hoc measures will help you avert a months-long recovery break and get back to training in days.
- Case study: How I was able to run a new best time despite overtraining by a happy coincidence.
Overtraining is like a short circuit in your nervous system. Once you’ve crossed the line, it can take days, weeks, or even months to recover fully.
The quicker you act, the quicker you’ll be able to uproot trees again.
Best time despite signs of overtraining?
Once you’ve crossed the threshold of overtraining, it doesn’t help: The best way out of the vicious circle is an unplanned break from training.
For months, I focused everything on this competition.
The training is going well until a week ago – and even though I’m challenging myself – I’m on track.
Until a week ago.
Well, anyway, I WAS on course.
“So that’s how a 99-year-old must feel,” I think before ignoring the thought of my aching limbs. I look at my training schedule with frustration.
“The marathon is in 5 weeks. Now is the crucial training phase if I want to set a new personal best.
All the work of the last few months – for nothing?”
The paradox is that I still believe I can continue training with will and discipline even if I can’t explain this mysterious drop in performance.
Perhaps we marathon runners are used to blocking out physical ailments. Luckily, in Carla Santos, I have an experienced running coach.
I ask her for advice, hoping she can give me a magic pill so I can pick up the next day where I’ve been trying to bang my head against the wall for about a week.
It turns out completely different.
Carla immediately recognizes that I’ve maneuvered myself into overtraining.
“The good news is,” she comments, “if you treat yourself to the recovery your body is crying out for, overtraining will heal on its own.”
I reluctantly bite the bullet. I’m surprised by how sweet it tastes.
The zest for action is already coming back after a break from training for several days.
“Don’t overdo it now,” I think to myself.
I take it slow, just light and short workouts until I feel fully recovered after about 10 days. In the following weeks, I increase the intensity step by step.
There are still 3 weeks left until the competition.
That is not much.
Completely unexpectedly, a dream comes true: a new best time! 42.195 kilometers that have never felt so easy.
Today I would like to talk about a pleasure run. Even if the years probably hide the pain, the moments of happiness remain.
And I’m happy about the experience – I will recognize overtraining much earlier in the future.
So how can you avoid overtraining, get out of the vicious circle and regenerate quickly?
5 Reliable Overtraining Insurance Policies
Avoiding overtraining: 1 – Sleep
Sleep is free, effective, and simple; even Fred Flintstone knew how to do it.
Isn’t it amazing that so many people miss this goal completely?
If you want to progress twice as fast and not feel overtraining, going to bed 1-2 hours earlier or working on your sleep quality is a good idea.
You only get stronger, more enduring, and more beautiful when you sleep.
Avoiding overtraining: 2 – Nutrition
You are what you eat. This also applies to your regeneration.
Without the right nutrients, you’ll shoot yourself in the foot before the race even starts. Would you drive with an empty tank or the wrong fuel?
Your body doesn’t need empty calories. It needs Super Plus Gasoline from “real” food.
Many diets that promise short-term success don’t work in the long run and promote overtraining because crucial nutrients are missing.
Avoiding overtraining: 3 – Stress
Many people are unaware that physical and mental stress has a decisive impact on your progress.
If you have all other factors under control and are still not getting results, you should look at your daily routine and ask yourself whether too much stress could be the cause.
Maybe the time-sensitive project at work, the movie, or a sick relative keeps you busy.
Challenges in other areas of life also affect your progress in training.
In such situations, it’s a good idea to adjust your training so that it’s more of a recovery than an added burden.
Yoga, meditation, and massage can help you de-stress just as much as these unusual methods.
Avoiding overtraining: 4 – Workout
Too much and too intensive training a la “a lot helps a lot” will get you into trouble.
“Don’t train hard. Train SMART”
It is the motto.
It’s a good idea to train just enough – and no more – to make tangible progress.
If it takes 2 weeks to recover from a training session, something is wrong.
You can play with the intensity. A few rules of thumb for your training:
- Daily periodization: no high-intensity training for two consecutive days. If you train large muscle groups (legs, back) during strength training on one day, you turn to the smaller muscle groups, e.g., arms, shoulders, or stomach, the following day.
The same applies to cardio training. The next day, a tempo or interval unit should be followed by a calmer unit.
- Weekly periodization: If you’ve been training hard and hard one week, you’ll slow down the following week. This applies to both strength and endurance training.
This approach will do just fine if you are primarily concerned with fun, fitness, and your body.
- Principle of small steps: If you want to increase your training volume or intensity, you should take your time.
The following rule of thumb has proven itself when running: “Increase the scope of training by a maximum of 10% from one week to the next so that your body can get used to the strain.”
You can also transfer this magnitude to strength training. Increase the intensity with appropriate patience to avoid injuries and to overtrain.
- Build in regeneration weeks: Depending on your training experience and goals, I recommend inserting a regeneration week every 4-12 weeks in which you significantly reduce your training volume.
Avoiding overtraining: 5 – Recovery
You regenerate faster if you stick to the “4. Training” principles. Regeneration does not mean that you have to give up training completely.
With active regeneration, you can even support your recovery and thus avoid injuries and overtraining. Examples of active regeneration:
- Stretching and Foam Rolling (SMR)
- Yoga / meditation with a focus on breathing and relaxation
- Swim, run, and bike at “grandma’s pace.”
You will ensure better blood circulation with active regeneration if you don’t overdo it with these activities.
Stuck? 4 foolproof ways to save yourself from overtraining
Let’s say the kid fell down the well, and you’re overtraining.
At an early stage, you can get the cart out of the mud pretty quickly with the following strategy:
- Absolute training break for one or more days.
- Down with training intensity and volume. And until you feel relaxed.
- No “hard” training. I.e., relaxed, shorter endurance and/or strength units.
- For more severe forms of overtraining, you would need 6-12 weeks of recovery. That can happen if you ignore the signs of overtraining and keep training.
Avoiding overtraining – Conclusion: The dose makes the poison
An iron will helps us to achieve goals faster.
As with many good things, here it is:
If you overdo it, the positive effect can be reversed.
At least if you ignore your body’s cries for help.
If you interpret the signals correctly, you can act – and that’s when the spirit of staying fit is in demand again.
Namely, the will to NOT train for once and to take a break even, especially when you thought you were close to your goal.
Even if overtraining is not something to be trifled with, I know few people who have already reached this state. Most of them are competitive athletes or very ambitious hobby athletes.
This point is important because I think fear of overtraining is wholly misplaced.
Respecting your body and being mindful of the signals it is giving you is a much better idea.
This article is part of a series of articles about overtraining:
Part 2: Avoiding Overtraining: 9 Foolproof Ways Out! (this article)