Overtrained - perhaps

Over-training: Burning the candle at both ends…(as my Glaswegian mother would have said)

In this article we look at the symptoms of overtraining and talk to an elite cyclist and former Team GB canoeist about their experiences.Tired-Cyclist

Intense, regular working out, running, cycling, CrossFit [insert your favourite sport or gym workout here] can be motivating & addictive along with a huge grin factor. Its fabulous to spend time doing something you love that is also making you healthier & stronger. However, endurance sports, explosive sports and gym-based workouts can lead to overtraining, or its less dangerous cousin – ‘overreaching’. This can seriously impact your training plans if aiming for an ‘A’ race or big goal.
 

Here’s how to recognise the signs and, if your training has taken you over the precipice:
The symptoms of Overtraining syndrome (OTS) include feeling rundown, an emptiness in the key muscle groups and not being able to complete your workouts. For example, a keen runner might feel heavy legged and may even be catching constant colds & suffering cold sores. Sometimes the fatigue is so great that mentally & motivationally, there is no willingness to train hard and for PTs your client may even dread that next session on the plan.

Use your Heart Rate… Regular measurement of resting heart rate (RHR) provides an indicator of overdoing it. Measure your RHR every morning for 2 weeks before you roll out of bed, count your pulse for 20 secs, multiply by 3 and record on a device beside your bed. An increase of more then 5bpm can be a sign of overtraining. Biochemically, an inability to take the heart rate into the higher HR zones during intense interval sessions is a key indicator that rest and recovery are needed and needed pronto!
tired female athlete

What’s the difference between over-reaching and full-blown over-training? Talking to different fitness people and athletes, the differentiating factor seems to be the depth & scale of the tiredness. Full over-training takes longer to recover from, whilst recovery from over-reaching may take just a week. Initially thought the symptoms of deep fatigue, heavy legs and lethargy will be the same. Overtraining often occurs when athletes try to continue training & “push through” the fatigue.

You’ve overtrained, what do you do?

The first thing to do is plan your recovery – try halving your regime for 4 weeks to see if your mojo returns. That’s a shocker for the gym addict or runner who likes “to get the miles in”. Just imagine not being able to do your regular classes, the worry of weight gain and shape-loss, the void created by a lack of training…. The good news is that with quality rest, decent deep REM sleep & good hydration the body & mind can recover quickly.

What about the lost sessions? An approach I recommended to one of our aspiring Marathon clients, Sean Orford, was to focus on improving mobility and flexibility with Yoga & the foam roller. Sean did several days of Yoga and meditating back to tired-runner-631x421back. When he began to feel fresher, he returned to training at a lower intensity & distance. Staying in the lower heart rate zones also let the big heart muscle recover too.

Overtraining doesn’t discriminate between amateurs and pros
The likes of our Team GB heroes Farah, Brownlees’ et al will suffer from over-reaching only occasionally thanks in part to being professionals and being paid to rest & adapt. Top amateur cycle racer David Zelaskowski holds a full-time job while also coaching aspiring cyclists. He gave up teaching Insanity fitness classes because he could not recover fast enough for his next hill repeats session or road race. As David puts it: “you can’t out-rest over-training and no matter how many ice baths you have you still don’t recover.”

He emphasises the need to have proper muscle recovery after hard workouts and also to have proper mental recovery too. In years gone by David had over-reached by working long hours, training hard and then racing. In races he noticed “a pattern of bad decision-making that meant I missed key breaks and sprints which was due to mental fatigue alongside physical training overload.”

Former Team GB canoeist Colin Cartwright now operating Cartwright Fitness supplies recalls “we used to train in the Eastern Bloc style… heavy volume training, sometimes 3 sessions per day – canoeing, strength & conditioning and do this on back-to-back days. I was regularly super-tired, going onto the water feeling lethargic and trying to train through it but not hitting the numbers I needed to. Cartwright learnt that 16k hard training on the river plus heavy resistance training in the evening doesn’t equal great results.

He says: “Nowadays I’d rather peak train for 12 weeks within the year than train full-on for 52 weeks. Listen to the body, its hard to back-off but you will get stronger in recovery. My times now, on lower volume but better quality training are as good as they were 10 years ago…. Makes me think what I might have been able to do with better recovery patterns built into the plan”

Even most pro-athletes don’t complete the year without injury & fatigue and they eat properly and they train correctly, they have the expertise of coaches, physiotherapists, nutritionists and sport scientists to support them. (And they don’t have to contend with late nights, demanding bosses, family commitments, full-time jobs and other commitments, like the rest of us.) The only stress on their system is exercise, whilst for the average recreational exerciser stress bombards us from all angles.
In our next article we’ll factor in the effect of poor nutrition, particularly inadequate calorie intake, and insufficient carbohydrate and water consumption and the effect that has alongside overtraining.

Lift Heavy or Stay Home – Yours in Running
Conrad Rafique is a Fitness & Motivation Coach and runs Rock Mountain Fitness. He graduated as a Master Trainer from The European Institute of Fitness and has competed in a range of Trail Marathons, road marathons, Halfs and 10ks. He has recently returned to the track with new spikes.

2014 Chester 1/2 Marathon & the effects of poor hydration

Well that was one warm race on Sunday.  Personally I like running in the warmer weather as, mentally, I feel it keeps the achilles tendons, calves and MT joints nice and warm.  In the warm conditions there were several runners suffering from dehydration.  Many of them were in club colours and I would have expected them to know how to hydrate better. I saw one runner stopping with cramp after only a few miles, another one at about 4 miles with the bicycle-paramedics treating him and probably the most disheartening of all: in the final uphill mile to the finish outside Chester Cathedral, a poor guy went into what I would call hyper-dehydration.  He was staggering all over the road and his body was almost vibrating….. needless to say the heat had got to him and the paramedics were quickly on hand, along with other runners.

Little and often is the way to do it on a warm long 13-miler – take a bottle at every feed station, sip the water, don’t gulp it down and pour some over the head to keep what is the hottest part of the body cool.

Mankind evolved to run – we were Born to RUN – we became the dominant species due to our uncanny ability to regulate our body temperature better than any other living thing on the planet.  Our temperature regulation allowed us to hunt anything from wild boar to horse and even big cats and bears.  We could do this because we could regulate our temperature whilst our prey overheated…. a bit like an old Alfa Romeo or Ferrari, only more edible.  Crucially though, we needed sips of water every hour to make this happen.

Day-to-day I use a great wee App called Hydo to track my own hydration – on a warm day when I am Training, my required intake is 3.2 litres…. and I am only a wee guy as they would say back home in sunny Giffnock! Right I’m off for more water (via the loo again!) why don’t you do the same?   {next post on over-hydrating, and yes that can happen too}

Trail Marathon Wales 2013

Just 8 weeks before the event I got a wildcard entry to Trail Marathon Wales when a Bristolian fell-runner pulled out due to injury. What training could I fit into that narrow arrow slit of a window?

Prep consisted of a couple of road 10 milers for the Chester 1/2 marathon, one solo 12 mile circuit of Moel Famau and Moel Arthur and a fabulous 15 miler round Moel Arthur, Penycloddiau and ‘Famau delivering 1000m of ascent with my buddy John Hodgson, a highly experienced trail guru.  I managed several  5 and 6 milers but do they really count?
Several Hour of Power classes and some Metafit classes certainly contributed to keeping the cv system and upper-body strong.  On reflection, they made the difference as I didn’t suffer what I call the ‘middle-order’ collapse thanks to a stronger core and better running posture.

The day itself was fabulous – Saturday 22nd June 2013 now permanently etched in my data banks when I rose early enough for a wee porridge before jumping into a borrowed Fiat 500 and buzzing down the A55 via charming Llanrwst, MadMax-esque Blaenau Ffestiniog to Coed-y-Brenin.

On arrival it hit me how big a deal this event was with Welsh Athletics and a host of Wales & GB World Trail Championship contenders in attendance.  Organiser Matt Ward of Salomon has concocted a magical formula – great location, stunning scenery and of course a tough challenging brutal but enjoyable route.

About 300 started the Marathon and 400 were doing the 1/2.  The route took in such trail delights as the Sarn Helen trail, the famous Volcano trail, Ffridd Goch and Ty’n y Groes.
I was ready with Nathan water belt + Overstims race belt with Energix gels, coup de fouet (don’t ask, some French bionic gel used by Alpine ace Sebastien Chaigneau) also my favourite Accelerade caffeine-laced gels and some salty Overstims ricekrispie bars – a great antidote to all the sugary sweet stuff.

Start Line:
Matt briefs us that 26 trauma trained Mountain Rescue personnel are out on course – What on Earth have I let myself in for?
– and Matt’s personal emotional investment was plain for all to see when he was almost overcome with the scale and passion of the event, before asking the local Grouse Bagger to give it both barrels from his Purdey to start the race.
We were off!
A mix of silence, smells of warm-up oil & pine forest, deep breathing and an air of anticipation that you could almost squeeze.
The first few miles along forestry fire roads made for a pleasant warm-up.  Took a wee cup of water & banana at first feed (6m) at Capel-pen-Stryt.
10 miles were clocked up quite easily – too easily.

A 3/4 mile fast downhill road section led us back offroad down a drovers track to a steep, boggy climb through marshy country and back into the forest canopy.
At Tyddyn Mawr (12m) there was another water station, again very welcome and manned (and womanned) by enthusiastic helpers.  At the 22 km mark there was a spectacular long rocky downhill section – I engaged my Mad Mountain Biker gear in the brain and flew down like a cougar on heat. It was fabulous to be complemented by seasoned fell-runners on my “downhilling being good for a triathlete..” Pity my uphill strength wasn’t quite as good 🙂

Miles 15-17 felt OK as I managed to continue trotting up the hills.  We overtook some Mountain Bikers pedalling up the rocks in the granny ring, made us realise how quick we were still going….  Some horses then came down the same track and, having been alone or in small groups of runners for almost 4 hours, this felt claustrophobic (I know, completely mad when you are in the middle of nowhere!). So I put the hammer down and flew uphill with Lucy from North Norfolk Beach Runners in tow, as I slowed at the top Lucy carried on motoring – I was impressed.

At Mile 21 I slowed considerably and the stride shortened with twinges in the hip flexors.At the next feed bananas were scoffed which supplemented my gel strategy perfectly.
From 22m I ran with an inspiring lady from Meirionydd Runners into another fab fast downhill section with a long grassy stair case.  The pain came next with a massive single track climb over a waterfall and up a very steep wooded hillside. Around mile 23 I got a second wind and flew downhill again only to stumble, dent my pride and graze my forearm – could have been worse as my face was in the mud too, thankfully all teeth were intact.
At this point I was thinking we’ve only got 10k to go, that’s about 40 minutes…. but not when you’ve done 21 miles over 1300 metres of climbing – that’s 4000 feet in ‘auld money’.

The final feed at Ty’n y Groes was well timed and I wish I’d taken on some electrolyte as I cramped at mile 24 stopping for about 15 mins to stretch it out with the assistance of yet another enthusiastic and kindly marshal.
The last few miles were a mix of happiness, elation, giggles and high emotions and the cheers at the end brought tears to my eyes as I reflected on the race and thought of my sporting Dad looking down on me probably saying “you are mad, why didn’t you stick to cricket…”

Finished in 5h 42m 209th out of 300 – happy with that and a million Thank Yous to Matt Ward, organisers & marshals and also my wee girl Catrin for running me the coldest ice bath ever ready for me to dive into fully clothed.
Roll on 2014, I’ll be back better trained and Powering on.

 

Rock Mountain Fitness

Recovery – Why is it always such a rush to get enough sleep?

Why is it always such a rush to get to bed in our house?

I’m sure that if you are anything like me, and I am not atypical in any sense, just maybe a little OCD…, then getting to bed at a decent time to score some decent quality regenerative rest is not as easy as it should be.  It’s always high on the list of priorities for the day – “must get to bed early and sleep well…”.

Like many of you, starting up a new business venture in sports and fitness, being a caring & helpful Dad, assisting with homework, making school lunches etc etc all run into the plan for an early night.  Well, I say that, those important and enjoyable tasks run in alongside the heavy exercise programme that we undertake, so it’s not the tasks and loving daily chores that lead to the ‘late*’ nights.  It’s all things taken together that lead us to pack as much into the day as possible – and often a good bit more too.
*I say ‘late’ because for many working parents with a love of sport, an early night can be bed at 11.30 for 6-7 hours rest.

Personally, 6 hours is inadequate, 7 hours is ok but not regenerative and 8 hours is my optimum for restoration benefits.  For some folks, e.g elite triathletes it can be 8-10 hours and famously Paula Radcliffe would sleep for 10 hours plus some sneaky cat-naps throughout the day.

One of my best friends and a super, high energy Group Exercise instructor and Personal Trainer (Gill Garner) regularly grabs cat-naps of up to 1 hour during the day in between her busy schedule of classes and PT sessions.

What’s the learning point? What can we all try and do better or differently to get the rest and recuperation we need so that we can be productive, helpful, powerful & fast (and sweet-natured!) tomorrow?

First thing – no electronic devices in the bedroom, no iPads, laptops etc. Leave them outside the door, the bedroom is your sanctity of rest.  No TV either.  Read a book and drift into a deep slumber.  Waken with your alarm or with the daylight – whatever you use, force yourself up and out once you waken, do not hit snooze. Hit the day running, and make a pact with yourself to get to bed at a specific time.  If you haven’t got all your ‘To-Do’s” done then rise early tomorrow to finish them – the body and mind will be stronger and fitter for the high quality rest that you invest in your sleep bank.

For all you athletes out there, when we sleep the body releases human growth hormone (HGH), that’s what Dwaine Chambers infamously injected to himself to build his strength, speed, stamina, & accelerate his recovery so he could train harder next day…. and cheat!
We can do this naturally by sleeping well – HGH rebuild and repairs muscles, boosts the immune system, repairs micro-damage to tendons, ligaments and bone structures.
All massively important for all sports people and indeed all of us.

Sleep Well, Sleep Tight