Monday, March 12, 2007

Is it Overtraining or PMS?

The symptoms are strangely similar: feelings of irritation or anger, feelings of depression, lack of motivation, difficulty concentrating, increased sensitivity to emotional stress, increased aches and pains. So how do you know if you need to begin rehabilitating yourself from overtraining, or if you just need a Midol? Or, in general, if you're just in a "funk" at the moment, and it's not overtraining, you just have developed a very bad mood. (Stress at work? Annoying cousin in town?)


While overtraining might make you a jerk, there are other performance-based symptoms you can analyze to see if it's time to rest your poor overworked body. Overtraining can be seen as long-lasting fatigue and worsening of competitive performance. But before you go out and run a 10K to compare it to your PR, then decide since it was a few minutes slower, you should throw in the towel, you realize: hey, I just finished a heavy week of training! How can I compare this time with the one I got when I was tapered?


The Peaks Coaching Group has a good article about recognizing the difference between normal fatigue from pushing yourself to achieve maximum gain and fatigue from months of overuse.

According to them, these are the main symptoms of overtraining you should be on the lookout for, then compare them to how you normally feel after a hard workout:

  1. Deep muscle soreness. Chronic injury? Feels like your bones are on fire? Hopefully you never feel this way, but if you do, you might be overtrained.

  2. Inability to get your heart rate up. Now you can use "Potential Overtraining" as an excuse when your significant other questions your recent purchase of a Garmin Forerunner 305. "You don't want me to get injured, do you!"

  3. Loss of appetite and diarrhea. As a triathlete, you are proud that you're the human garbage compactor at every meal. Should this stop, something is very very wrong.

  4. Colds that linger--your immune system is depressed. Sore throats, flu-like symptoms. Emergen-C won't cut it. You need rest.

  5. Can't sleep, and feel like you don't get enough sleep. Yes, the general population experiences this too, that's why we see "Lunesta" ads all over the TV, but usually you sleep like a baby because your workouts make you tired. Something's up.

(To read the full article on avoiding overtraining, click here!)

Overtraining(Overtrained?) PMS(PMS?)WorkStress(Work Stress?)

So while your mental state might resemble PMS, or (for the guys) general moodiness and irritability (mean boss? needy girlfriend?) there are definitely other factors you can watch out for to make sure you haven't overdone it. If popping a Midol, or telling off your boss/girlfriend (mentally! Not out loud!) doesn't get rid of the problem, start assessing yourself with the list above. And don't be afraid to give yourself some rest. If you don't do it now, overtraining will catch up with you later and your recovery will take much longer.

Happy Stress-Free Training!

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