‘No pain, no gain.’ Are these the words you hear from your trainer? Is it really what you should be feeling and aspiring to when setting out on a road to increase your health and fitness?
Achieving the correct balance with your fitness programme is crucial: too little and your goals will not be achieved, too much and you may suffer an injury. For many of us, it is a challenge to even adopt a regular and effective fitness routine, but for some it becomes a way of life. Under proper guidance and knowledge, regular exercise is what we strive to achieve for optimum health, but when there is poor guidance or no goal orientation, things can often go wrong.
What is overtraining?
Overtraining is a process of excessive training that may, if left unchecked, lead to a condition termed ‘overtraining syndrome’. That is characterised by persistent fatigue, poor performance in sport despite continued training, a change in mood state and neuroendocrine factors along with suffering frequent general illnesses such as upper respiratory tract infections. Overtraining syndrome reflects the body’s inability to adapt to cumulative fatigue, resulting from daily intense exercise training that is not balanced with appropriate or sufficient rest. This means general performance will decrease and other symptoms may commence.
Who is at risk of overtraining?
Many people believe that it is just elite athletes who are at risk of overtraining, but this is not the case. Athletes are, of course, at risk, due to the amount of training and high intensity work they do. In a recent interview with Liz McColgan, Olympic and Commonwealth medallist in the 10,000 metres, she stated, ‘It was all about balance and I prepared meticulously for my events.’
McColgan mentioned that she was very careful about her training and planned all her events and training leading up to it. ‘I didn’t just wake up and think, “I am going to run a marathon”. It took years of balanced training and progressive work. I looked after myself and made sure I ate well and recovered well.’
For athletes, it becomes their full-time job and they have a lot of qualified and experienced people around them to ensure they are training at a level that is sustainable and correct for their event and goal.
Striking a balance
As fitness professionals, we may smile at the prospect of our clients overtraining when, for the most part, we are desperately trying to encourage a habit of regular and consistent exercise in their lives. However, I have certainly come across trainers who think that they have to push their clients as hard as they can for as long as they can on every session. It becomes the trainer’s responsibility to inform the client about training plans and goals, and to provide the information necessary on recovery in order to avoid any persistent fatigue or injury. There are so many different programmes to follow and with all the social media avenues out there, there are also many posts from exercise enthusiasts or trainers that are encouraging you to follow what they do. It is important that anything you follow should have a purpose and be executed correctly.
Karen Porter is a fitness professional in Doha, Qatar, www.bodyandhealthbydesign.com.
Ten top tips for creating balance and avoiding overtraining
1. Set targets, including a long-term goal and a series of short-term goals
2. Always reassess where you are on your path to achieving your goals
3. Seek advice from a qualified, experienced professional
4. Take a break if you are feeling under the weather or very tired
5. Always warm up and cool down properly
6. Stretch, stretch, stretch
7. Get to know your body and how it should feel through training and after training
8. Do something you enjoy
9. Always incorporate rest into a full training programme
10. Fuel your body. Eat to train and drink plenty of fluids