Overtraining syndrome –
a physical, behavioral, and emotional condition that occurs when the volume and intensity of an individual’s exercise exceeds their recovery capacity. They cease making progress, and can even begin to lose strength and fitness. Overtraining is a common problem in weight training, but it can also be experienced by runners and other athletes. ~ Wikipedia
Recently, my friend and fellow fitness professional Suzanne (of WorkoutNirvana fame!) asked me a question on Twitter;
Personal trainers and group fitness instructors frequently suffer from overtraining. They teach a lot of classes. They repeatedly demonstrate the same exercises. They insist on fitting in their own training (like they’re not already working out enough!).
Typical overtraining syndrome symptoms include (but are not limited to); weight loss or gain, fatigue, plateaus or loss of strength gains, persistent muscle soreness, joint aches and pains, elevated resting heart rate, sleep difficulties, depression, suppressed immunity and an increased incidence of illness and injury.
Danny-J, of The SweatyBetties joined in the conversation;
Our conversation got me thinking about how fitness professionals might reduce their risk of developing overtraining syndrome. Of course, the following suggestions are also relevant to those of you who aren’t fitness professionals, but spend a lot of time at the gym… (you know who you are!);
- Limit the number of classes you teach (or attend). In the summer time, this is particularly difficult. Many of your colleagues will be taking time off for vacation and looking for subs to cover their classes. Don’t over-volunteer.
- If you do agree to sub extra classes, don’t participate fully in each one. Remember, when you’re teaching, it’s not your workout (unless you’re spinning; it’s really hard to fake your participation on a spinning bike!). I know that participants like to see their instructors participating, but it doesn’t need to be at your highest intensity.
- If you do consider some of your classes to be a ‘personal workout’, make sure you count them in your weekly workout schedule. I know many instructors who teach 6-8 classes each week and still feel the need to get another 3 or 4 of ‘their own’ workouts in.
- Choose lighter weights when teaching a class than you would when doing your own workout.
- Same with demonstrating exercises for your personal training clients. Many movements can be demonstrated without any added weight at all.
- Make sure you’re not always demonstrating exercises with the same side of your body. When I teach group fitness, I face my class and always ‘concede the dominant’ to them. That means that I start unilateral exercises with my left arm or leg. Because I usually put my weights down after 5 or 6 reps and walk around the class coaching, my left side gets over-used relative to my right.
- Plan at least 1 day away from the gym or studio each week. It not only aids your physical health, it’s good for you psychologically as well.
- Treat your body well. Get lots of sleep and pay attention to nutrition.
- Branched chain amino acids (BCAA’s) and glucosamine may speed up muscle recovery between classes and reduce joint pain and inflammation.
- See your doctor or physiotherapist at the first sign of an injury. Ignore little pains and clicks at your peril…
- Plan on a rest week every 3 months or so. No teaching, no clients, no working out. (This is probably the most difficult suggestion of all!).
Have you ever experienced the symptoms of overtraining?
How do you avoid overtraining?