We are pumped to share one of our fave stories from Self here on FitSugar!
If you're anything like me, your workout waves come in (short) fits and starts. At least you're doing something — that's how I rationalize it.
On the downside, that may mean that you get overzealous during exercise phases. It's great to keep moving, but overshooting your fitness level — or even hitting the gym too much as a pro — can be counterproductive, actually slowing your progress.
Here, experts describe the pitfalls and warning signs of overexercise, plus some moves for massaging your own overworked muscles:
First, physical activity is supposed to be key to happiness and health, so how do we even know if we're overexercising? American Council on Exercise-certified spokesperson and exercise physiologist Fabio Comana, M.A., M.S., says, "Exercise when it's modest to vigorous helps boost your immune system. When you exercise too vigorously and don't allow for recovery, it actually represses your immune response."
Overexercising or "Overtraining Syndrome" may actually manifest like a cold or flu, in the sense that you'll feel worn out. Explains Comana, these are some classic symptoms/signs:
- Increased Heart Rate:
As you become more conditioned, your heart rate should lower. That's an adaptation of training. If you're overtraining, your resting heart rate will rise, which also happens when you're under stress. Lie in bed with your fingers on your pulse (wrist or neck) and count the number of beats per second to check. If you are under stress, maybe your body isn't up for the usual workout. Stop training for a while, as you manage the stress in your life. Or if exercise is a catharsis, scale back a little. Maybe if you're doing five days a week, downshift to three.
Check out more warning signs that you may be overexercising and learn how to treat them after the break!
- Decreased Performance:
Measure your performance based on the norm. Maybe you can usually handle three sets of 10 presses with 80 pounds. If you're having trouble with those reps, then maybe you're overtraining. Look out for related psychological and physical signs like irritability, fatigue, muscle weakness, a short fuse, or restless sleep.
- Muscle DOMS (Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness):
One generally gets sore 24 to 72 hours after exercising. The "eccentric" phases of working out where the muscle is decelerating (lowering a barbell or lowering into a squat, for example) create microtears in the muscle. When the body goes to fix it, increased blood and activity puts pressure on pain receptors. The message to your body is that your ability to train that muscle is compromised. It's physiologically damaged and needs time to recover. To avoid an excess of this phenomenon, minimize how much is done in one "sitting." Control the amount of eccentric exercises and don't do as many sets for a few weeks.
To speed recovery and soothe muscles, Comana also suggests the following when you've overdone it: at the end of your workout, do a nice cooldown and postexercise stretch. Ice the muscles or sit in a cold whirlpool bath. A few hours later, take a hot shower to jump-start the healing process. Take omega-3s, zinc, and vitamin C. Best of all, in the morning, do some light exercise (walking, yoga) to work those muscles and bring nutrients and oxygen to the area, which accelerates the healing process.
Or take these self-massage tips from Michael Ryan, lead massage therapist at The Spa at Mohonk Mountain House, where their new Mohonk Muscle Rescue treatment involves stretching, Naturopathica Alpine Arnica anti-inflammatory oil, and heated hydrocollator pads to warm muscles.
"When you've overexercised, your body is crying out for the muscles to be reoxygenated, especially at the joints," Ryan explains. "The key is to warm the muscles up around the joints and massage in the direction of the muscle or using 'effleurage' strokes. Then, do cross-fiber friction [a horizontal motion], which breaks up adhesive material or calcium buildup in all of our joints. This is how we maintain range of motion, and that's the real healer."
For soreness and tightness, try these massage techniques (for muscle and mind stress relief!) any time of day:
Elbows: Cup a hand around the elbow (in the front, not the back bony area) and use your thumb to massage downward in the direction of your wrist for two to three minutes. Then, for cross-fiber friction, begin massaging from side to side instead across the arm, also for two to three minutes.
Knees: Sit in a chair. Take both thumbs and, starting at the top, massage just above the knee, lightly for two to three minutes with forward strokes towards the kneecap. Then, start massaging from side to side across the thigh at the very top of the knee, which might be more painful, but will flush calcium deposits out into the bloodstream.
Shoulders: Reach over to your shoulder with the opposite arm, using your index, ring, and middle fingers to rub in a downward direction away from the neck in long strokes for two to three minutes. Use your thumb closer to the neck. Then, cross the other way, rubbing in shorter strokes from your back over towards your chest for two to three minutes as well.
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