Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Over-training Syndrome - Spin Class WOD

I attended my first spin class in over a month last Wednesday and followed up with another on Monday. I had the following results:


Average Heart Rate: 166bpm

Max Heart Rate: 188bpm

Approx. Calories Burned 830 approx.


Average Heart Rate: 155bpm

Max Heart Rate: 191bpm

Approx. Calories Burned 740 approx.

I made sure to push it a little more than usual at Wednesdays’ spin class, as it was a test to see how well I am recovering from over-training syndrome, and with the results above, I am quite happy. I would have liked to see my heart rate break 190, but my average was what I had hoped, I actually hoped for something around 160.

Now I will enlighten you to what over-training really is and is not. Over-training is NOT the following:

1.) Pushing so hard you pass out

2.) Pushing to the point of vomiting

3.) Being so sore you can’t walk the next day

4.) Getting heart rate so high that you lose you hearing, vision, …

Even though all of the aforementioned are undesirable and should be avoided (most of the time) if possible, they are not examples of over-training. Over-training is the result of prolonged periods with high volumes of exercise without allowing ample time for your body to properly recover. True over-training often takes many months to be realized, as was the case with myself.

Over-training is an endocrine system disorder and its symptoms generally include:

1.) Fatigue

2.) Irritability

3.) High Cortisol Levels

4.) Low Testosterone

5.) Injury of many types

6.) Sickness

7.) Unexplained lack of desire to train or feeling like you must train even when fatigued.

8.) Excessive Lactic Acid Buildup

9.) Decreased performance

10.) Inability to complete a normal workout routine

11.) Decreased Maximal Heart Rate

12.) increased resting heart rate (In certain cases, decreased in others)

I noticed my first signs of over-training when stair racing, I would push hard, and it felt more painful than usual even though I was not moving as quickly. I would get excessive lactic acid build up and my legs felt like they were filled with concrete. I also noticed that I had no race-day adrenaline and my practice times began to slowly regress. I knew something was wrong, but did not realize it until I wore my trusty heart rate monitor in the stairwell on Columbia tower race day. My maximum heart rate in that race was 171bpm with a 163 average. The race only lasted 8ish minutes; I should have been able to easily get my heart rate to the upper 180’s. That is when I realized I must be over trained. I looked back on my results from former spin classes and realized I was slowly degrading my body, not allowing enough time for rest. Ahhh, so this is why professional triathletes have random rest weeks in the middle of their training regimens, something that I thought unnecessary unless you were physically sore, injured, or in some other sort of pain.

So for that past 3 weeks I have been resting, I am not sitting on my ass all day everyday, but I am taking it very easy in my workouts, and reduced my volume by 70 percent. Wednesdays spin class was my first real test to see my progress, and with the results above I can put a smile back on my face because it often takes athletes 1-4 months to recover from over-training, it looks like I am well on my way to recovery in just 3 weeks.

So what did I learn?

1.) That over-training sucks – so get your rest days, and occasional rest weeks into your routine.

2.) I was trying to do 3 separate workout routines, 1 for stair racing and cycling, 1 for strength, and 1 for mountain climbing. I was doing 3 athletes work loads, yet I am only 1 person. So pick 1 spot to excel and focus on it; do not attempt to be everything all the time. If you have a generally good fitness base, you can adapt to the fitness you want within a month or two with proper training.

3.) Eat well, my fast recovery is likely a result of my diet, it is a perfect diet to recovery from over-training for many reasons.

4.) Make sure to eat enough. This is likely where I failed as well, my calorie intake when climbing, and the 1-2 days post-climb was not sufficient for recovery, even though it was healthy. I was too low body fat to get away with calorie restriction in such efforts. So I put on a few pounds purposefully to avoid this in the future.

5.) SLEEP and STRESS AVOIDANCE – This is what really fu*$ed me over. In the midst of all my training I was working long hours in a stressful job and getting far too little sleep. Stress means high cortisol levels, which means no recovery. Yet I would work out anyway because it would make me feel better. And even though it relaxed me, it just made the need for even more recovery. So focus on sleeping more, working less, and avoiding too many high stress situations. Next time I am in this situation I am taking a sick day or two (I don’t give an F if Sea-Tac is not going to be able to fuel their airplanes because I can’t get a pump up and running in the next 3 hours…I don’t give an F if the roofing factory is losing $1,000 per minute because their line is not running…they have some resourceful folks working for them, I am sure they will figure it out).

6.) Allow ample time for recovery, even if you feel you don’t need it. Endurance athletes in particular need to make sure to incorporate rest days once or twice per week into their routines and rest weeks every fifth week or so. This will help the athlete avoid the slow process that is over-training syndrome.

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