In this article, we've teamed up with Liam from Crossfit GEO to talk about how over training / under recovering can negatively affect your health and training. Liam shares his experience with over training and how he gets himself back to peak performance as soon as possible.
We all live busy lives, juggling work, family and keeping ourselves in shape, but sometimes over doing it in the gym and life can have a negative effect on our health. Here are some classic signs that you might be stuck in a fight or flight dominant mode:
Having a scattered and unsettled mind
Trouble sleeping or waking during the night particularly around 3 am
Lots of vivid dreams or waking feeling unrested
Tired or slow to wake in the morning
Progressively feeling weaker in the gym
Unable to wind down after a hard workout making it harder to sleep
If this continues for an extended period of time, it can contribute to making us feel more anxious and even start to affect things like sex drive.
There is nothing wrong with short term stress and adrenaline, keeping in mind that adrenaline can also be produced from doing things that we enjoy and get us revved up which releases stress hormones (like having a really interesting and intense job, then smash a really hard workout). It is designed to help us adapt and respond to tough situations and survive another day. Like running from a lion, your body will perform and do things you never thought possible. But this takes a toll on the body which must be repaid with good food and rest.
In our lives today it can be all too easy to rush from one thing to the next, always with something on our mind, over time impairing our body's ability to relax and repair. This situation can lead to sleep and digestive issues, feeling like you have an anxious or unsettled mind, underperforming in the gym and being more prone to injuries or niggles that never seem to go away.
So how can we get out of flight and fight mode so that we can properly recover and get back to full training?
At Village Remedies Clinic Balmain we use acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine to force your body to relax. By improving sleep and digestion your body can start to recover from being over worked and get back into a healthy rhythm.
When starting treatment for recovery, it is important at this time to listen to your body. If you are tired, take it easy at the gym and give yourself that little extra sleep in, while also fuelling yourself with the quality food you need. You may even find there is a period where you feel a little more tired or even come down with something and get a little sick. This is your body's way of taking advantage of you slowing down so it can recover. Just roll with the punches and give yourself the time you need to get back on your feet.
That's how we approach unwinding stress and over training in the clinic, but from a trainer's perspective, Liam has some great tips that have worked for getting him back into the gym and moving forward with his training after a period of over training.
The very reason some partake in physical activity and movement is to allow them to feel better throughout their day. The reality of the situation is however, the training that you do is a stress on your body. Stress has been shown to enhance your immune response. However, chronic stress has been shown to impair the immune response. This means that if you have not properly recovered from multiple training sessions, your body may remain in a stressed state for a prolonged period of time, leading to feelings of being run-down, and leaving you more susceptible to performance decreases and even diseases due to an impaired immune system.
Here are some steps I use to allow me to ‘cool down’ from training, without having to stop training completely. In other words, how to modify my training in a way that allows me to keep certain movements and positions solid, whilst also keeping strength and fitness levels high, without creating to much stress on my system.
Flow training and the 80% rule
Many people consider training as an area in their life where they have to perform at their highest level, day in day out, in order to get stronger. This entails partaking in workouts that bring them to failure, lifting near-maximal loads, and having an overarching theme of ‘competing’ every time they step foot in the gym. They base their training’s success on hitting PR’s, tapping everyone out on the mats, and winding up completely exhausted, face up on the floor after every session.
The truth is however, if you can set a ceiling for yourself, saying “I’m not going to go above 80% of my capacity today”, this can create some space in your training to focus on your movement, stress your body’s systems far less, and with practice, achieve an awesome state of being known as ‘Flow’.
This space can still allow you to keep the same training volume, so you can still get quality practice of movements and techniques, whilst giving you more energy to devote to other areas of your life. This will leave you with the ‘feel good’ endorphins of exercise and progress, whilst also not burning your candle excessively.
Quality and Quantity of Sleep
Many struggle to get enough sleep every night. What if I told you, however, that you can get the benefits of more sleep, while getting less of it? If you are feeling ‘revved up’ when you are trying to count sheep at night, there is a chance that you will not fall into the state of rest and digest as far as you need to in order to recover optimally from your training.
It is important to have a night-time routine that winds you down at the end of your day. For me personally, I will have a cold shower, followed by a short yoga routine, some breathing exercises and 10 minutes of reading. All up this may take you 40minutes. You may think that you “don’t have time” for this. However, think how much time you spend on your phone before bed or throughout your day. I set a rule for myself that in the hour before bed-time, I won’t go on any social media, and this allows me the space to wind down before bed.
When I am feeling very revved up however, getting Acupuncture allows me to slip into a relaxed state much more effectively. One session can give me quality sleep for days, even weeks after treatment. In times of intense training or competitions, I find acupuncture’s ability to put me into a deep sleep is essential for optimising my recovery.
When I feel little niggles start to creep in, such as a knee issue that flares up every so often, a funky shoulder or a bad back, I know that I am ‘under recovering’. I know this as when I do optimise my time outside of the gym, my body runs perfectly:
Movements feel solid and smooth
Strength= through the roof
I awaken feeling well rested and don’t need an alarm
I feel motivated
Energy levels feel high when they need to be and low when they don’t
However, sometimes life gets in the way, be it a stressful time at uni, intense bouts of training or competing, issues with family or friends, or general stress in the workplace. This is when I know I need something extra to keep me recovering optimally.
Acupuncture helps my body find the optimal conditions it needs in order to recover. When times get stressful or niggles become injuries, I make sure to get Acupuncture done at least once a week. Initially I feel slightly lower in energy straight after the treatment, but this forces my body into a state that I can sleep optimally, and not be as revved up before bed or when going through my day. I awaken feeling well rested, and feel that I can trust my bodies energy levels throughout the day to get done what I need to get done.
Overtraining, or Under-recovering, is a condition that is more common than you think. I find just talking to someone about your energy levels can not only allow you to identify that you are overtraining, but it can take a heavy burden off your shoulders. I would look at other people that I train with and think “If they’re doing all this training, I should be able to as well”, and think that it wasn’t normal to feel overtrained. In talking to someone about it however, it can normalise what you might be feeling, and you may even find that the person you are talking to has experienced exactly what you are going through. This is comforting for me, as no-matter who you are, if you don’t take the time required to recover and put the energy towards it that is needed, you will experience ‘overtraining’, or more well-put, ‘Under-Recovering’.
If you feel like you've been pushing yourself too hard and are starting to experience the signs of over training, book in with us at Village Remedies Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine Clinic in Balmain to help get you back on track. Also, if you need help with your training, hit up Liam and the team at Crossfit GEO in Gladesville, Sydney.