Recently I have come across quite a few days where overtraining has gotten to me – it hasn’t always been strictly hard exercise but has usually come from just pushing too hard in a few sets of just working out too frequently. Just putting too much strain on the body, going that extra unnecessary mile.
There are a few vital clues that our bodies give out when they have had enough and require some rest – or at least time off exercise all together (in the conventional sense). I believe movement and activity is always good but sometimes we need to take it easy with things like weight lifting, running, and other intense exercise. Keep an eye out for when:
- Sleep becomes disturbed
- Digestion isn’t what it usually is
- Constant feeling of tension in neck and shoulder muscles
- Muscles feel heavy
This happens for a variety of reasons – our nervous system gets tired, and our muscle glycogen gets depleted leading us to feeling grumpy, irritable, tired, lethargic and like we don’t want to move – a sort of tired but wired feeling. Basically all the things that we do not want to feel especially when trying to look and feel healthy – the trouble is our nervous system needs a lot of time to repair, only good sleep, relaxation and food can help.
Muscle glycogen is another key factor – It is rapidly depleted with exercise to give you an idea just a few sets of sprints going all out will deplete a large proportion of your bodies stored muscle glycogen. This will take a lot of food to fill back up, and in most cases it is more than we can keep up with eating if exercising with intensity on a regular basis.
So in a nutshell the reason we need to take time off exercise is to replenish and nourish the nervous system and muscle glycogen.
There are various techniques I like to use to do this, most are simple and easy to implement into life.
– When exercising load up on fruit: before and after and for the days surrounding it – ever noticed a natural craving for sweet things after a heavy bout of exercise? This is your bodies natural craving for sugars which are anti-stress and glycogen replenishing. Go for tropical fruits like Pineapple, mango or things like berries and oranges. Blackstrap molasses is also a good nutritious sweetener.
– Eat Good Carbs: Emphasise Potatoes, Brown Rice, Root Vegetables (parsnips, squash, beets etc) and Oats. These are all great sources of starch which is essential to replenish muscle glycogen around bouts of exercise. Make these easy to digest – don’t overload meals with fat and protein.
– Rest and Relax: Your nervous system needs time out so give your body treats like a regular massage or just doing 10 minutes of deep belly breathing a day is one of the best ways to calm and restore the nervous system. Your body needs down time – if you feel stressed and can’t sleep take it easy.
– Plenty of Sleep: Naps are great to, but try to clock in a good bout of sleep at night. I have recently found out how much difference sleeping in a dark room can make so switch off any appliances with lights and get some blackout blinds.
Pretty simple stuff but having awareness of your body is invaluable. Being aware of when we have pushed too far or when we need some time off is something not everyone has and is something that in reality it comes with experience. So watch out for the signs and listen to how your body feels when it comes to training. If you are suffering from insomnia or fatigue there is a very good chance it is down to your nervous system being overtaxed or chronically low muscle glycogen.
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