In recent weeks I have begun feeling very tired at the end of the day. I keep to a pretty stringent routine for both my personal and professional lives. In the case of fitness, I try hard to get my own workout in instead of using my classes to keep me healthy. I firmly believe that my classes are to be dedicated to my students’ needs, not my own. Plus, I do not get the recommended amounts of cardiovascular (and maybe muscular) exercise that I need to maintain my health from my classes alone. I need time pumping bike pedals or walking up a stair master (my choice of machines of late); I have also added a dance class to my schedule, which is awesome. I love dancing!
Be that as it may, athletes, instructors, and those who work out religiously find that they may overtrain. We are incredibly driven by what we do, which for me is to help people help themselves, and that requires the maintenance of a fit image. Wikipedia defines overtraining as “a physical, behavioral, and emotional condition that occurs when the volume and intensity of an individual’s exercise exceeds their recovery capacity.”
Overtraining occurs more often in people who are simultaneously trying to exercise and maintain a limited food intake (i.e. training for a bodybuilding/fitness competition or dieting) though it does occur when other psychological stressors are present. Some of them include jet lag, ongoing illness, menstruation, and overwork.
Some warning signs that you may be overtraining include:
- Persistent muscle soreness
- Persistent fatigue
- Elevated resting heart rate
- Reduced heart rate variability
- Increased susceptibility to infections
- Increased incidence of injury
- Mental breakdown
There are several ways to combat this. For me, I will be taking a week-long break in April (minus teaching my classes). Others may choose to increase their calorie intake. Now I know the word “calorie” has gotten a bad rap in recent decades but the truth is that this is how your body gains and expends energy. If you do not take in enough fuel, your body begins to shut down. The more work and exercise you do, the harder it is for the body to heal itself on a limited diet. This is one reason why it is highly recommended that you work with a certified nutritionist and trainer when you are considering a strict diet combined with exercise for weight loss, competitive events, etc. Also, the longer you maintain a strict diet or intense training, the harder it becomes for the body to recuperate.
Your body needs downtime. It needs a resting period from time to time. When training its instructors, the American Council on Exercise recommends that the individual takes frequent “vacations” to maintain peak performance, readiness, and mental alertness. Teaching a class is a taxing, albeit rewarding, job. Teaching two or three per day is even more so.
I hope that you, like me, set time aside for the rest necessary to fitness performance. Such resting periods prevent strength plateaus and mental fog, and increase our ability to cope with heavy training schedules. They also enable us to get other things accomplished, things which we sometimes put off for the sake of our rigorous schedules! For me, I plan on having a good lie in and easy schedule (one lacking too much to do, unlike my current feelings when I look at the calendar). But whatever you do, smile and don’t feel guilty. You are not being lazy by taking time out for yourself. You are being responsible.
For more information on overtraining, see: