Excerpts from my mailings, relating to overtraining -- how to recognize it and how to avoid it...
My first full week of life as a full-time spin instructor is upon us. I've been at this 4 days, and it's already the best thing ever. But it was a warm-up. Now here's when the 4-5 classes per day begin... which calls to mind my most favorite topic: HEART RATE TRAINING. My new life policy is that I will do absolutely no cardiovascular training without a monitor - if I forget it, done, no activity. Even if you're not spinning 5x per day, it's important to be mindful of not overtraining. Overtraining is NOT reflective of frequency of exercise - it's reflective of intensity. The Spinning program was actually designed to be done 7 days a week... but properly distributed by hr range:
1-3 days Endurance: 65-80% max hr
1-2 days Strength 75-85% mhr
1 day Interval: 65-92% mhr
1 day Recovery (or off): 55-65% mhr
See that? One day a week when you're going "all out" - that's it! For many of you, you're doing 92% far more often than that. Overtraining is totally counterproductive. I did it for years, prior to commencing training with a hr monitor. So let's just... not.
Here are some warning signs that you may be overtraining:
1) Constant fatigue
2) Changes in sleep patterns
4) Frequent illness/infection
5) Sugar cravings
6) Elevated resting heart rate
If that looks familiar, it's even more important to focus on building (or rebuilding) that aerobic base - specifically, staying below 80% max hr with NO exceptions - for a straight, consistent 4-8 weeks. If you want to do this right, get a monitor! (I often bring my extra one to classes as a conversion tool - ask to borrow it for a taste of just how enlightening it is). If you're still not sold, you can do a bit of guesswork: 80% is that "comfortably uncomfortable" point I talk about in class - can't talk much, but no burning in your legs.
"But if I stay below 80%, I'm not getting a good workout!" I hear that often. It's BULLSHIT. You are getting a fantastic workout, and an important one. Here's what happens when you stay below that burn point:
1) Increase size/strength of your left ventricle of the heart, the part that pumps blood to the whole body
2) Increase blood volume pumped throughout the body
3) Increase fat metabolism - burn fat instead of stored muscle glycogen
4) Increase capillary density around working muscles - so more oxygen can be exchanged, and it's easier to stay aerobic... a circular pattern that keeps these benefits flyin'
5) Increased lactate threshold (the point where you switch from aerobic to anaerobic training)
6) Boosted immune function
7) Decreased blood pressure
Clearly, these are all things we want. Agreed? NOTE: This does not merely apply to cycling! This is hr training in general! I cannot encourage you more enthusiastically (at 3:14 am, at least) to get a hr monitor. Check the spintastic listserv archives for recommended links. Doing cardio exercise without a monitor is like taking the odometer out of your car. And we clearly wouldn't do that - now would we?