Dr. Hawley’s Health Corner – Overtraining Syndrome: Who needs rest days anyway?
As I started to think about what to write about this week I really wanted to touch on a topic that we discussed in the past. Overtraining is real and needs to be discussed on a relatively frequent basis to ensure that everyone is not causing damage to themselves by training too much. Below is an article I wrote several months ago with a few tweaks.
Instead of focusing on a particular mobility exercise I am going to spend some time talking about rest days and active recovery days and why they are important.
As with anything in the fitness world, it is really hard to find a black and white rule that works for everyone. Instead there are guidelines and suggestions that everyone needs to know and then modify them to their particular body as everyone is a little different. This thought process holds true for the idea of overtraining. The amount of rest days and active recovery days that someone needs is not based upon what kind of workout they are doing but rather how their body is responding to their workouts.
The biggest problem that people have is that they base their rest days and active recovery days around someone that they are working out with. These days must be incorporated into your weekly training schedules based on what YOUR body is telling you and nothing else. Trying to follow a program that is designed for an elite athlete will certainly result in overtraining and perhaps even a loss of gains and strength.
I will give you a brief example of why it is so important to avoid over training. A young girl who runs a sub 6 min. mile on a regular basis and who has completed several marathons (at a really fast pace) decided to see if she could push her marathon training to the next level. While trying to do this she entered the over training cycle and refused to stop training because she was close to her race. Following her race (which was timed much slower than her previous best) she had a minor mental breakdown and her body “fell apart”. She had random muscular injuries, was feeling drained all the time and had a hard time concentrating. It has been a few months now (with no working out) and she is just starting to feel better.
This all could have been avoided if she listened to her body, took more “rest days” and didn’t continually push herself. Don’t read this the wrong way and think that I am trying to say not to push yourself at the gym. On those days that you are feeling good/fresh take advantage of those days and go all out at the gym. However, if you are having one of “those” days or weeks where everything feels heavy and you just don’t feel good use those days to focus on lighter weights, your form or mobility exercises. There is nothing wrong with listening to your body as we all could use some more time to work on form or mobility.
From now on try to listen to your body so that you can avoid falling into the overtraining cycle. Take those rest days that everyone needs and push yourself when your body will allow.