There’s nothing worse than spending months preparing for a race or game only to fall flat on the big day. Not putting in enough effort could certainly be to blame, but if you found yourself sprinting to exhaustion or lifting to your limit every day, that’s definitely not the case. For many athletes, overtraining is a common problem that occurs from exercising too much and not allowing for proper recovery. Once overtrained, continued hard efforts will lead to diminished performance.
And just about anyone is at risk: Everyone from casual runners to professional bodybuilders can find themselves in this situation. A story by Boston Magazine reported that symptoms can range from increased risk of injuries to gastrointestinal problems, which can wreak havoc on your body as well as your emotional state. When your workout routine sours, follow these tips to get better and keep it from happening again.
1. Take a break
Unfortunately, a big event is often the way athletes find that they’ve been working their bodies too hard. It can be tempting to jump right back into the gym, but that’s actually the worst thing to do. If overtraining is the issue, more exercise will just fan the flames.
The only real option is to take some time off. WebMD writes, “Treatment for overtraining requires that you cut back training or stop all together for 1 to 2 weeks.” In some cases, more than a month may be needed to fully recover. Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules. A review of overtraining syndrome by the British Journal of Sports Medicine explained that cases need to be assessed on an individual basis in order to determine exactly how much rest is needed. It’s best to err on the side of caution, because more rest isn’t going to hurt.
2. Consider cross-training
No matter your sport of choice, too much of any activity can lead to overdoing it. Runner’s World recommends cross training for those who like to hit the jogging trail. It works different muscle groups and helps prevent overuse injuries. What’s more, it offers a way to mentally shake up the usual routine. This doesn’t just apply to runners, either. Shape suggests switching things up from time to time for those who turn to cycling to sweat.
If you absolutely loathe the thought of skipping out on your favorite workout, just make sure to back off on the intensity from time to time. Not every day is a race, after all.
3. Get enough sleep
Getting enough sleep is something that most of us need to work on. According to Gallup, around 40% of Americans don’t regularly get enough sleep. Not only is it difficult to try and stay awake at the office, but it also has implications for exercise.
A study conducted at Stanford University found that basketball performance was positively impacted by getting an adequate amount of sleep. Men’s Fitness explains getting plenty of rest is critical for repairing muscle tissue and recommends between seven and nine hours a night.
4. Eat right
Good nutrition is one of the best ways to optimize athletic performance. That means eating healthy foods and making sure you get enough calories. An article by Outside Online explained that not eating a sufficient amount of food can actually lead to weight gain, so loading up on good-for-you eats is key.
In addition to fresh produce, FitDay recommends whey protein, quinoa, and grilled chicken. Most athletes know about the importance of carbohydrates for energy, but quinoa also has the added benefit of fiber and protein.
5. Incorporate regular rest days and other activities
Maybe the most important, and the most frustrating, tip is to work regular rest days into your exercise regimen. Women’s Health reported on the importance of taking one or two rest days each week to allow your body enough time to repair. Men’s Journal suggests taking a complete break from your activity of choice from time to time and trying something new and fun, like rollerblading. When you get back to running (or playing basketball or cycling), you’ll be more energized and mentally prepared. You’ll also have a lot more fun.