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So, I finally got back on the erg today after a break of almost three months. Just a gentle paddle, as it were. 10 minutes with the dial on 1, low rating, nothing that might risk any searing pain.

As a training session, it was nothing to write home about. But what a relief to be back on the machine that has given me so much pain and trouble.

There’s nothing like an injury to make you grateful for what you’ve got. I’ve got a way to go before I’m back to strength and fitness, and I’m still not sure when I’ll be back on the river, but seeing a little glimmer of light on the horizon has made me happier than you can imagine. It’s good to be back.

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Bumping into your fitness instructor when you’re skiving their class is always a bit awkward. You feel you have to explain why you’re dressed in civvies (assuming they recognise you out of your lycra), and you feel you need to apologise for your laziness, too.

This week was different. I was bunking off bootcamp as my body just couldn’t take any more, and I prepared myself for the usual good-natured teasing when I ran into the instructor that morning.

Instead of laughing along, though, she looked at me closely as I launched into my feeble excuses.

“You’ve got all the symptoms of overtraining”, she said. To my astonishment, she prescribed several days’ rest.

She was right, of course. I’d been gradually getting more and more tired, and that Monday’s session, when the class went up a level, had pushed me to my limits and beyond. I knew, as I forced myself through pain and nausea, that I might be overdoing it, but I was determined not to be beaten. Just one more rep…

As to the symptoms, I had them all. I felt as though I was fighting a persistent, low-level cold that came and went every few days. My muscles were failing to recover in between fitness sessions. I was constantly tired, and frequently tearful and irritable, but lay awake each night, tossing and turning. Even the thought of an evening paddle in the sun (usually a treat to be eagerly anticipated) had me feeling a bit meh. I found old injuries recurring for no apparent reason, but couldn’t bring myself to stop exercising for fear of losing fitness.

Seeing it all written down it seems obvious, but in my determination to get fit and stay fit I was ignoring what was before my very eyes.

Anyway, the upshot is that I’ve enjoyed a lazy couple of days and am just trying to figure out when I’m ready for action again. But I’m sure I’m not alone in being guilty of overtraining. If you’re feeling a bit achey and run down, and nothing feels quite right, take my advice and run through the checklist. Exercise is great, but sometimes you can have too much of a good thing.

Overtraining checklist:

  • Washed-out feeling, tired, drained, lack of energy
  • Mild leg soreness, general aches and pains
  • Pain in muscles and joints
  • Sudden drop in performance
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Decreased immunity (increased number of colds and sore throats)
  • Decrease in training capacity / intensity
  • Moodiness and irritability
  • Depression
  • Loss of enthusiasm for the sport
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased incidence of injuries.
  • A compulsive need to exercise

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