This week I am cutting back on my exercises. I have been experiencing some symptoms of overtraining, or overreaching, depending on the school of exercise physiology you take side with. For the past 8 weeks, I have combined Hal Higdon’s training for half marathon and Les Mills Pump for strength training and peppering in a few different group classes (Weight Works, Cycle Core, and Yoga) in between for good measure, and it looks like I may have done too much too soon. The fact that my baby girl has been getting up 3-4 times a night the past week hasn’t helped me either.
As a mother of two young children, I was used to feeling tired. I often traded my own catchup nap time to do my exercises because that is how I have to fit them in. This past week has been particularly hard because my baby girl seems to be going through back to back teething and growth spurt after recovering from her Roseola virus fever. On top of not feeling rested, I was feeling knee pain, which I thought at first might be due to my shoes. I had my shoes checked out, but that wasn’t it. Then I just felt these nagging aches and pains that didn’t feel too intense, but they were a little beyond the regular DOMS and they bothered me throughout the day. I was battling a nagging cold that wouldn’t go away, my knees hurt, and the back of my legs were tight; plus sometimes my shoulders felt like the nerves were pinched. I paid extra attention to stretching but the pain didn’t improve. I drank lots of water to fight the cold but still felt dehydrated and tired all the time. Then I noticed that I was getting short of breath on my warm up run’s first lap! I continue to push through the negative feelings and ran the distance as dictated by the training schedule. One weekend day I ran my 7 miles, I took a nap afterwards and woke up feeling like crap. I felt burning feeling in my abdominals and my lower back and felt nauseas after waking up. I thought I might actually throw up, though I didn’t. I felt better after I walked around a bit but I felt weak. It was when I started to google my symptoms (had to rule out cancer and pelvic inflammatory diseases) and had to sit down and think about what I was experiencing in my body that I decided to look up overtraining.
Overtraining: untreated overreaching that result in chronic decreases in performance and impaired ability to train.” Defined by The United States Olympic Committee and the American College of Sports Medicine.
The term “overreaching” refers to the earliest phase of overtraining. Overreaching consists of extreme muscle soreness that occurs as a result of excessive training with inadequate rest/recovery between hard training sessions. – U.S. Army Physical Readiness Training Information
Even after I looked up some articles on overtraining, I thought I can still push through it. The day after my 7 mile run, my legs felt like lead and they hurt like never before. I was supposed to do my Les Mills Pump Pump Extreme DVD, which I have done before. Since my legs felt so bad, I decided to go lighter on the weights. Instead of doing my usual 15lbs on each side of the barbell, I took off 5lbs on each side to make things easier on myself. I did the warm up workout for 5 minutes and then I couldn’t go on. My strength was clearly regressed and not there for me. On top of that, I was starting to feel frustrated mentally. My baby girl would wake up several nights in a row at 1am, 3am (or 4am), 5am, then 6am, and I would want to smack her (and it took all the control I had not to!).
Here are the symptoms over overtraining according to ACSM:
Decreased performance (strength, power, muscle endurance, cardiovascular endurance)
Decreased training tolerance and increased recovery requirements
Decreased motor coordination
Increased technical faults
Altered resting heart rate (HR), blood pressure and respiration patterns
Decreased body fat and post-exercise body weight
Increased VO2, VE , and HR during submaximal work
Decreased lactate response
Increased basal metabolic rate
Sleep and eating disorders
Headaches, gastrointestinal distress
Muscle soreness and damage
Joint aches and pains
Depression and apathy
Decreased ability to concentrate
Sensitive to stress
Increased occurrence of illness
Decreased rate of healing
Impaired immune function (neutrophils, lymphocytes, mitogen responses, eosinophils)
Increased serum cortisol and SHBG
Decreased serum total and free testosterone, testosterone/cortisol ratio
Decreased muscle glycogen
Decreased serum hemoglobin, iron, and ferritin
Negative N2 balance
Basically, the difference between overtraining and overreaching is that overreaching is an earlier stage of overtraining that can generally be recovered from in a few days or weeks compared to overtraining, which takes more than 3 weeks to recover.
1. Too much too soon, such as a 10 to 20 percent increase in training volume over a three- to four-week period
2. Frequently combining two harder variables in one training session (i.e. combining a long run with challenging hills or a tempo session with speed work)
3. Two or three high-intensity (i.e. near or above lactic threshold) workouts in one week on either the bike or run
4. Not allowing two days of easier sessions between the challenging workouts described in 2 and 3 above
5. Overload in psychological or emotional stress in other facets of your life
6. Lack of sleep
7. Poor nutritional habits before, during or immediately after workouts
8. Loading up your racing season with too many events
Recovering from over-reaching requires four steps:
- Identify the symptoms.
- Take two full days of rest with no exercise.
- Take the following three days easy. No more than 50 minutes of exercise in one session. Do not attempt more than two of these easy sessions in one day.
- After this five-day period you can resume your normal training program.
This is what I am doing this week. It has been difficult to balance between my drive to improve and challenge myself and to give myself the proper amount of rest given my life’s realities. I am hopeful that I will be able to run my 10K this weekend as it is too late to cancel… I will walk it if I have to!
Now it is time to go to sleep!