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Ester Marsh column: Watch for overtraining when setting goals

I am 17 weeks out for my half Iron Man goal. So far, so good! Twenty-three weeks of training are behind me and definitely had to make some adjustments to my workouts along the way. Setting attainable goals makes it easier to stick with whatever target you chose to reach. However, with this same goal setting, sometimes the “no pain no gain” principle jumps to the forefront. I have been very good and actually surprised with myself that I have made adjustments in my workouts by truly listening to my body. Most of the times, the adjustments where an extra day of recovery or a less intense workout that day. For the ones who know me understand how huge of a deal this is for me. I was a hardcore athlete who would stick to her program no matter what, hence the many injuries I incurred during my competitive years. As I mentioned before, this is a journey for me and so far I am enjoying myself tremendously and feeling great.

But when is it too much? The following are signs and symptoms from the ACSM’s health and fitness journal; the most common signs and symptoms of overtraining are:

• Persistent heavy, stiff and sore muscles

• Persistent fatigue, washed-out feeling

• Decreased performance and ability to maintain training regimen

• Increased susceptibility to infections, colds, headaches

• Nagging and somewhat chronic injuries

• Sleep disturbances

• Decreased mental concentration and restlessness

• Increased irritability

• Depression

• Tachycardia (faster heartbeat than normal at rest) and, in some cases bradycardia (slower than normal heart beat)

• Loss of appetite and weight loss

• Bowel movement changes

• With females, absence of menstruation.

You might think you are doing the right thing for your body, but in reality you may be harming yourself. So how do I keep from doing too much?

• Listen to your body and take extra recovery time when needed

• Follow the 10 percent rule; don’t increase training volume and/or intensity by more than 10 percent at a time.

• Change up your workout routine through periodization format, with higher intense and volume periods to extended periods of rest and recovery time. Personally, I have blocks of four weeks increasing each block but on week four, I have a recovery week where the mileage and intensity is low and easy before I go up in my next block.

• Cross train — a variety in your training is very healthy and beneficial. My Estelatte (my version of yoga moves, Pilates and some tai chi) has really helped me stay loose throughout my training.

• Rest accordingly. After a hard workout, your body usually needs at least 24 up to 72 hours of recovery depending on how hard and long you have worked.

• You should not feel wiped out after a workout; you should actually feel you could do more. If not, you are doing too much.

• Proper nutrition and hydration is very important. Seek a professional dietitian, when needed, who is knowledgeable with sports nutrition.

• Quality sleep is essential. This is the time when your body is restoring and rebuilding. I need at least 8 hours, preferable 9 hours of sleep but many top athletes sleep 9-12 hours to be able to train and perform at their levels.

As with eating, keeping a log on your exercise routines can be very beneficial. Write down what you do at what intensity and time, but also how you felt.

Most people reading think this is for the competitive athletes, which are absolutely a part of a group that believes “no pain no gain” is the only way to work out. As coaches, personal trainers and athletic trainers, we need to guide and support our athletes young and old that training hard responsibly and effectively is the key to a healthy successful career. But it also for the exerciser that is doing it purely for health, body, stress relief and so on, that too much is not the healthy way to exercise.

Do you have signs and symptoms of over training? Your family doctor would be a great resource to help steer you on a path of health and not self destruction.

Any qualified personal or athletic trainer/coach can assist you and guide you to a program that will be beneficial in your training regimen not hindering your improvements.

So whether you are a competitive athlete, health seeker or stress relief exerciser, make sure you do it for your health and don’t hinder your wellbeing.

Ester H Marsh Associate Executive Director JF Hurley Family YMCA

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