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Overtraining Detection and Prevention
By Ivan Nikolov
copyright © 2008 Ivan Nikolov
When you went to bed last night, the plan was to go to the
gym the next day morning. What happened when you woke up this morning? Why are
you still at home? Do you feel worn out? No energy? No desire for resistance
training or cardio?
Thinking about physical work makes you feel even more fatigued...
May be the reason why you feel this way is -- you are overtrained. Trust me I
know first hand how this feels. With so many years of weights training and
competition behind my back I've gone through that quite a few times myself.
We get in an overtraining state after prolonged training stress coupled with
impaired ability to recover properly. With other words when we train hard for
longer periods of time but we don't give our bodies the needed time to recover,
we risk to become overtrained.
This always happens to me when, for some reason I can't stop training and take
the required time away. For example I will be close to a competition or a photo
shoot and can't even think of lying off workouts.
Usually I can tell with a pretty good level of certainty when I start slipping
into the state of overtraining.
I know the signs: elevated resting heart rate, mood
swings, pain in the muscles and joints (especially in the upper thigh muscles),
sudden loss of strength, no desire for weights lifting, decreased sleep times,
lose of muscle mass, feeling irritable... I can go on and on.
I'm sure the signs of overtraining are well known to almost
every athlete. But how can you tell that you are nearing this condition?
It is a well-known fact that the levels of testosterone
and cortisol change when an athlete starts exhibiting the above mentioned
signs. The testosterone levels drop while the cortisol levels increase. And
from there the loss of muscle tissue and strength due to the catabolic state,
caused by the increased stress hormones.
Measuring hormone levels over time would be an accurate
method, but also expensive and inconvenient. Thatís why I want to discuss
other, more practical methods for overtraining detection.
Currently there isn't absolutely precise method to easily
forecast overtraining. This is due to several reasons. One example: each person
has a different threshold for the amount of training load and life-induced
stress. So, what causes me to overtrain might be easily tolerable for you.
There are two methods that can be used to prognosticate
overtraining, and they both require heart rate frequency measuring.
The first was based on a study, published in the
"Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise" (vol. 26(5), p. S65,
1994). The Finnish researcher Professor Heikki Rusko determined a way to
predict when an overtraining condition is approaching.
The method: Lie down and stay still for 10 min. Stand up
and wait 90 sec. Start counting your hear beats from the 90th to the 120th
second. Double the result to get the one-minute hart rate.
You have to do that every day for a period of time - it is
determined that signs of overtraining develop in a two-week period.
You also have to do it during the same time of the day,
and at the same temperature and humidity levels in the room. Also you shouldn't
be under any heart rate altering substances, like caffeine for example.
Professor Ruskin actually suggests measuring the number of
heart beats twice - 15 sec. after you stand up and then from the 90th sec. as
already described. However, according to him the most drastic changes in the
heart rate occur between the 90th and the 120th sec.
Thatís why I personally would only do the 90-120 sec.
test. But if you feel you want to do both then you need to count the 12th to
the 18th sec. first, which result you multiply by 10 to get the one-minute
So, if your heart rate increased with more than 10 sec.
per a minute, compared to the levels when you weren't overtrained, thatís a
good sign that you start slipping into the overtraining state.
Another way to test if your resting heart rate is
increasing is to run on a treadmill at a steady pace and at a set speed. Again
you have to do that for a period of one to two weeks under the same conditions
as described for the previous method.
If after running for 10 min your heart rate has increased
with more than 10 beats per minute, compared to normal, thatís a good sign to
back off for a while.
How long to stay away from intense physical exercise
depends on the time, during which you have been overtrained. The longer you've
been in that condition, the longer the break has to be in order for your body
and nervous system to recover.
Thatís right. The nervous system is where the process of
overtraining possibly starts, and itís certainly the system that needs the
longest time to get back to normal.
A good rule of thumb is don't go back in the gym if you
don't feel like you have the desire to start working out again.
I ought to warn you though. don't confuse the recovery
from overtraining with laziness. It is easy to get out of normal routine and
start feeling comfortable not doing what you're supposed to do - resistance and
To wrap this up I'd say if you think you are nearing
overtraining, consider doing one or both of the tests, described above.
If you think that the signs of overtraining are already
present, it is probably too late to start the tests. The reason being your
heart rate is already elevated and even if you started you wouldn't know your
normal one-minute rates to compare against.
Overtraining is a tough condition, which can keep you away
from workouts for long periods of time. That is why itís important that you
know how to detect it, so that you can take the necessary measures before itís
And too late means you are already set back weeks if not
months. So be smart about it. Prevent it.
ABOUT THE AUTOR
Ivan Nikolov, an accomplished natural bodybuilder shares a
wealth of information on Natural
Bodybuilding and Sports
Nutrition on his website www.IvanNikolov.com.
Start using his comprehensive Free Nutrition
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