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In our society, the “more is better” attitude is as common as dirt. Fitness gurus, magazines, and supplement manufacturers have taken advantage of these prevailing notions and turned the core principles of fitness on their head. The problem is that when looking to build muscles, strength, and endurance, this kind of approach is a double-edged sword, to say the least.
After a period of harsh training, the body turns against you and inevitably starts to break down. It is then that we become aware that the path to physical greatness is dotted with dangerous pitfalls. Most of them we overlook when we tread at a breakneck speed, so desperate to reach our fitness goals as soon as possible.
Volatile overdrive engines
It is incredible how many people get caught up in the vicious cycle of overtraining. They do too many sets, work out for hours, or do their routines every day. In other words, overtraining is the consequence of demanding too much from your body over a prolonged period of time. It is an uphill battle against your own organism, a battle you never want to wage.
Yet, gyms are packed with people ready to kill it at any price. Why is it so? Well, the media and the fitness industry fuel unfeasible expectations and drive the rat race. Besides that, initial gains are often encouraging and the real problems start only once you hit a plateau and experience little to no gains. One law kicks in then: for every action we make, an appropriate reaction follows.
Still, it is possible to steer away from overtraining by heeding the red flags such as drops in mood, shabby performance, muscle loss, illness, fatigue, sleeping problems, injury, or depression. Exercise is supposed to bring about a variety of mental and physical benefits. It enables one to build muscles and strength, but also melt stress away and relieve anxiety. In case these spoils remain out of your reach, well, you are doing something wrong.
Back to the basics
Overtraining is the consequence of a deep misunderstanding of the training process. Every time we work out, we strain our bodies and put their recovering abilities to a serious test. Namely, during the exercise, we induce a series of micro traumas within our muscles. The hormonal and neurotransmitter balance is undermined, and it takes time to return back to normal. What is more, the immune system needs to reboot and free radicals must be cleansed from the organism.
To put it simply, in order to grow, a body first needs to heal. There is no rushing the biological rhythm and over-clocking our central nervous system (CNS). So, just like proper nutrition, sufficient rest is the bedrock of fitness. And with good sleeping habits, they form the holy trinity of fitness. Notice that it is recommended to sleep around 8 hours every night and leave your body to rest for a whole day after an intense workout, or at least reduce the intensity for a while.
A game plan
Developing a sound training program is no rocket science and it is rooted in a few basic rules. However, every person is different and it always takes some trial and error to get things right. So, bear in mind that the best training programs are as simple as ABC. Steer away from fads and complexities. Why would you spend a fortune and invest hours in routines when you can simply do pushups at home?
Furthermore, do not be led astray by unrealistic claims and misleading stories about overnight success and incredible bodybuilding prowess. Know that professionals are able to train far more than us lesser mortals. Besides, they also use growth hormones, steroids, and a truckload of other drugs. You, on the other hand, are better off pacing yourself and setting realistic goals.
Educate yourself and read fitness blogs. Pay close attention to the volume of the exercises you perform and keep a workout log if need be. Know when to drop the volume and weights and “deload”. Rest assured that in the world of fitness, less can be more. Elicit a response from your body and then take a break. Now that you know how not to train, you should be able to tailor a program to your specific needs and come into fitness as right as rain.
Play it smart
Like it or not, overtraining is a treacherous tool that always backfires. It could even spell doom for your fitness efforts, by halting progress in terms of lean mass and strength. And to make it worse, overtraining also tends to add fuel to the raging fire by making you stressed out and exhausted. So, I would urge you to keep your muscle fibers working without laying waste to them and making any backward steps. Embrace a smart, sustainable strategy that brings results just on time and as sure as eggs.
Samantha has a B.Sc. in nutrition, and has spent two years working as a personal trainer. Since then, she has embarked on a mission to conquer the blogosphere. When not in the gym or on the track, you can find her on Ripped.me, or in a tea shop.