Getting the balance right
To reach your optimum performance – whether at work, on the playing field or in the gym – you need to get your balance right.
This could be the balance between work spent at the office and time spent away from the desk. Equally, it could be the time spent training versus the time you spend allowing your body to recover.
Going into overdrive
It is rarely the case that high achieving individuals, in whichever setting, do not do enough to reach their goals. The problem is normally that they are too driven.
This can be seen to its full extent in the sports setting. All too often we see people suffering a continuous string of injuries or illnesses. We hear people complaining that no matter how hard they train, they cannot get faster, fitter, stronger. We hear people saying they are tired all the time. In every case, it is more than likely they have been over training.
For a bunch of people who know precisely how to train, people performing at the top of their game are often unaware of how to recover. And this is a problem because the body’s systems need time to recover from the trauma of training and performing.
Essential recovery time
Recovery time allows the nervous, endocrine, muscular and skeletal systems the chance to carry out vital repair work and to refill energy depots in the body.
The nervous system needs a chance to ‘rewire’ itself so it can compute the training effects you have just imposed on it. The endocrine system needs to readjust the hormonal levels that were stressed during exercise.
The crucial questions that athletes need to ask are:
How long does it take to recover after a tough workout or challenging performance?
When will I be ready for another tough workout?
How can I tell if I am over training?
How can I measure if my recovery strategy is the right one?
The answer to all of these questions is surprisingly simple. A lot of studies have been carried out into the effects of different recovery strategies. Hormonal changes, heart rate studies, blood lactate are all measures that have been called into action to determine an optimum recovery period.
While these studies may give some answers they are also problematic. The first problem is logistical: very few people have access to the medical equipment needed to get accurate readings for chemicals in the body. Then there is the issue of other variables, for example, heart rate monitoring is problematic in this case because there are so many variables that can affect heart rate – emotional state, diet, hydration status etc.
Self awareness is key
No, the answer to reducing the risk of overtraining is something everyone and anyone can use: self perception. If you are feeling out of sorts; tired, emotional, stressed; unmotivated, then there is every chance that what you need is a break.
Science backs this up. A Profile of Mood State questionnaire was given to a 17-man soccer team. An overall positive outlook was linked with improved team performances. Negative scores were aligned with reduced performances. In another piece of research, the POMS questionnaire was the best indicator of a disturbed performance among elite distance runners.
While a full POMS has more than 60 questions attached, there is a simple set of questions that you can answer to discover if you need to take a break.
These are around how well you slept, whether you are looking forward to your work out session, if you are feeling optimistic that it will be a good session, how good your energy levels are, whether you have a good appetite at the moment, and are you suffering muscle soreness.
If you are answering positively to most of these questions, then you are ready for a work out. If you feel listless, achy, pessimistic, tired and have no appetite then your don’t need a sports psychologist to tell you the problem. Take a few days off, do something completely different. Then return to the gym when you are feeling ready for it.
If you need expert advice on any aspect of your exercise routine, please talk to one of the personal trainers based in our Outlooks Gym.