I’ve talked about this time and time again. Fitness has long been one of my passions. I was an active kid, who grew into an adolescent competitive swimmer who did 3-4 daily hours of training and cross-training five times a week, to an adult who got in exercise when she could around work and chasing toddlers around the house. The major sports (basketball, volleyball, soccer, etc) never much interested me growing up, but I spent hours playing at hula hoop, skip-it, jump rope, pogo sticks, perfecting headstands, my own fake version of gymnastics (ha!), building obstacle courses for my siblings and me, biking for hours, and general active play. My weight loss journey in 2011-2013 was an exploration in fitness as well: running, kayaking, trikke, elliptical, biking, water aerobics, strength training, walking, hiking, badminton, dancing, and really just about every other exercise you could throw at me. I just like exercise!!
Sometimes too much. Hence: overtraining.
I try to be good about striking a balance between getting in the exercise I want, and resting enough to not overtax my body. Sometimes, though, I go overboard in what I want to do, and what goals I make, and eventually things begin to snowball. Let’s just take the two-week period from when I got home from Wisconsin until my body crashed a couple days ago. During that two weeks, I exercised on 12 days, with 2 rest days. That might not sound bad – in fact, it sounds pretty normal for me – until I get a bit deeper into the numbers. Those two weeks included:
- 790 fitness minutes (13:10) – averaging over an hour per day excluding rest days, and roughly 6.5 hrs of exercise per week
- 29 miles walked, run, or hiked
- 10 yoga workouts, many of them strength-heavy
- 4 ST-focused non-yoga workouts, with increased intensity levels because I transitioned to using heavy weights instead of bands for several exercises
- 8 days with multiple workout sessions (this doesn’t mean multiple types of exercise done in a row – this is exercise done at multiple times of the day)
- 5 days with extra “non-exercise” slow-walking sessions for additional mileage, which don’t count toward the fitness minutes noted above (though does count toward the miles), and also often happened on my two “rest” days
- multiple days with over 1.5 hours of exercise in a single day
Several months this year, I managed fewer fitness minutes in an entire month than I did altogether in these two weeks. Granted, I tend to shoot for at least 1000 fitness mins per month, but generally, my body does better with 4-4.5 hours of exercise per week rather than 6+ hours!
So. Looking back at the cause of this overtraining, and it comes down to several factors.
- I’m following a personal training plan for prescribed heavy strength-training, which includes two days per week. I use a dynamic yoga warmup before each one. This alone should be fine and easy to work into my normal schedule.
- My goal this summer was to finish my backlog of YWA yoga workouts, of which there were roughly 45 of them going back over a year. Now, many of them could be used as dynamic warmups for the above ST and any of my runs, but this backlog also included longer, complete workouts that would be too heavy for warmups. Somehow I had to fit those in, too. I finished this goal toward the end of this two-week period.
- I’ve been very excited about running and happy to get back out on my normal trails. I’ve also wanted to do some experimenting after reading some things in Run to the Finish. So when I can, I’ve been going out and both running and hiking, weather permitting. (And in defiance of the weather, some days.)
- Last – and definitely not least – my August mileage goal. This is what has put me over the edge into overtraining. Many runners can easily go 100 miles in a month, if not 100 miles in a week, but this isn’t me. First, I’m an eclectic exerciser and I prefer a variety of fitnes (see above photo!). Second, I’m a very slow runner, so these miles take a lot more time. Third, it’s frickin’ blazing outside in August here – literally already “feels like 84 degrees” an hour before the sun even begins to rise – and those miles take more out of a person in that weather. Not only have I been pushing myself too long and hard out in all that, I’ve been sneaking in extra miles as “non-exercise” super slow walking around my house, which is further contributing to the wear-and-tear on my body.
Something has to give. The yoga goal is done, at least, but I’ll still be using yoga as a dynamic warmup. That has been an awesome tool. But I’m dropping the mileage goal. I’ll still walk, run, hike, etc, but not to the point of overtraining. When my body starts holding onto weight while my appetite drops to zero, that’s a danger sign and a clear indicator that something is wrong. Along with the hollow-bone-and-joint feeling even after rest, and a general crankiness toward life that make me despise my workouts, I definitely need some time off. REAL time off.