*UPDATE* Psychological Effects of Heart Rate Monitor Use Study

12/21/2010: Preliminary results were reported at Indoor Cycle Instructor in October 2010. Manuscript in preparation. Once published, results will be made available on this site and at ICI.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Medical Signs & Symptoms of Overtraining: How to Know When You're Working Too Hard

You're tired. You're sluggish. You're sick all the time. Your sleep is screwed up. You snap at your kids, your coworkers. The only time you're generally motivated to do ANYTHING is your 45 minutes on your Spinning bike, when you push yourself to "give it your all" (groan - one of my least favorite cliche expressions in life), get your scheduled endorphin rush, then go back to the real world in all its glory.

Like pornography, overtraining is something wherein I "know it when I see it." I know it because I a) see it all the time; and b) experience it all the time. In my medical world, the phenomenon of overtraining is not on the radar of most doctors. As an athlete, I know that my own primary care doctors over time have had NO idea how my training impacts my body. They're content that I exercise regularly, and that's all they think they need to know about me. They have no idea how intensity affects fitness (i.e., the person who goes to the gym to lose weight inadvertently spending 95% of her time working anaerobically, yet is surprised when she feels lousy AND doesn't lose weight), and how certain approaches to exercise can be counterproductive. It's SO underappreciated, in fact, that we're actually not taught this in medical school. But because I am fortunate enough to know better, I consider it one of my person life missions to educate my colleagues, my riders, and even patients (who teach ME so much about from their experiences) about this overtraining phenomenon.

The medical consequences of training too hard with insufficient recovery are well-described, and appreciated in sports medicine circles. It's just a matter of translating this knowledge into a form that is meaningful to people outside that circle.

I wrote an article for IndoorCycleInstructor about recognizing overtraining and what to do about it that was published today.

CLICK here to read an excerpt. In order to read the full article, follow the easy directions to sign up for ICI's free weekly mailings (an incredible resource to help you translate technical content to your classes, develop your own trainings, and keep your classes/music/themes fresh!).


Carole said...

You have once again provided a thought provoking and (dare I say)much needed article. I too, see this everyday in my spinning classes and personal training. Some of the clients seem to be insulted if time off or recovery pace is suggested. One of my clients had the same symptoms as your lady, went to the dr. and had alot of test which came back within normal range. She told me today, that she will take my advise and will train with the HR monitor. I am going to give her this article as reading material! :) Thanks again for putting this in a way that we all can understand.

Melissa Marotta said...

Your story has made my day -- good for you for educating your client in such a way that she was receptive to making a change. I bet that reading my article and seeing a description of so many of her experiences, supported by medical research, will be a gratifying, validating experience for her -- the "that's SO me!" experience. And hopefully scaling back her training will make her feel better, which further validates her life changes.
BTW - had you been an ICI subscriber before today? I'm wondering how it works when people subscribed in order to read the full-text (since only an excerpt was posted to the website), whether it's instantaneously delivered or not.

b4lifemommy said...

Amen Sister...I am working on forcing my brain to understand that I dont have to leave class every day feeling like I have depleted my body of every ounce of energy it had leading up to my workout. Actually, my brain already knows that, it has read about overtraining many times over - its my pride and psyche that need to get the message! You're the best!

Melissa Marotta said...

Tru dat. Tanya, the tricky part is how many people get used to expecting to "feel" a certain way every time they exercise (we spend our whole lives thinking that "more is more," before we learn better) -- before they learned to conceptualize their experience as "training" with an actual purpose. Every time I am tempted to push beyond my target intensity parameters, I remind myself a) what benefits I'm NOT getting by leaving my target range; and b) what negative consequences there are for exceeding said parameters. For example: If one is not recovered/prepared for a legit training session of anaerobic intervals(as opposed to randomly pushing up to that terrain when the mood strikes), one's not going to get the benefits of them -- but one will still accomplish the consequence of suppressing lactate threshold. So that great song or great mood or great SOMETHING that's tempting one to exceed what was 'supposed' to happen that day... not so great after all.

Lane said...

What a wonderful article!

I spent a lot of time with doctors, had a lot of tests (all good results), spent a lot of money, just to hear "You are no longer obese, your blood pressure is down, you have no problem." The doctors were useless as my problems were much worse than before, the symptoms just weren't as physical.

Then I educated myself by getting my spinning instructor certification (money well spent), taking CE classes, and by listening to people like you.

What a difference life has been since I learned the right way to exercise.

As Carole said, this article was much needed. I hope it finds its way to many people.

Melissa Marotta said...

Thank you so much, Lane!
I'm sorry that you've shared the experience of being an athlete misunderstood by your doctor, but I'm unfortunately not at all surprised. Good for you for empowering yourself to know better. (BTW - did you get the full 5 page article? Otherwise I'll email it to you.)

Lane said...

I subscribed to the IC website, something I wanted to do anyway.

If you watch the "Biggest Loser" towards the end of the season you will most certainly see an overtrained person. You can spot him easily because he used to be a testosterone driven football player who wouldn't shed a tear at his mothers funeral, now he cries during AT&T commercials.