When Rest is More: A Key to Athletic Performance

Recovery is necessary.  I’m not talking about the economy; I’m talking about your body.  Both competitive and recreational athletes can encounter serious health problems by overtraining!  Athletic performance requires a balance of effort and recovery according to the Focus on Fitness – Harvard Health Letter.  Of course, it’s not unusual to find that many athletes believe  more exertion, not balance, should be the goal.

A recent Wall Street Journal article echoes this concern, particularly in endurance athletes.  The article points out that Type A personalities frequently increase their training load until they experience a set-back, like illness or injury.  Overzealous athletes may equate rest with not working hard enough.   The article notes  that of the tens of thousands of Americans who register for marathons, as many as 25% fail to make it to the starting line due to injury, illness and loss of motivation, often resulting from overtraining. 

How do you know if you or your friends are pushing too hard?   In addition to decliningathletic performance (in spite of how hard you work) – here are some signs:  Are you tense, irritable, restless at night, experiencing reduce sexual desire or decreased appetite?  If you are seriously overtraining, symptoms may be more severe, and can include depression, prolonged muscle soreness, amongst other symptoms.  Men apparently are at higher risk for overtraining than women.

How do you know when and how much to ease up?  The Harvard Health Letter on Fitness suggests the following:

  • When exercise produces feelings of fatigue rather than a sense of increased energy, intersperse days of light exercise or complete rest as part of your weekly routine.
  • Eat a balanced diet and get adequate sleep.  Nutritional supplements such as extra vitamins and amino acids (while they may be good for you) do not aid performance.  However, some female athletes need to take an iron tablet to maintain a normal red blood cell count.
  • Limit intense endurance training sessions to no more than three days in a row, and for resistance training, rest every other day.

There are also cool, new technological tools to assist you with tracking and understanding your physical needs according to Outside Online writer Doug Schnitzspahn :

  • Visit Restwise.com,   a website and coaching tool that compiles 12 of your personal metrics and sends you a recovery score, telling you how hard your body is ready to push itself again (for a fee).
  •  Check out Suunto’s M5 hear-rate monitor which gages your workout intensity against your fitness level and tells you how many hours to wait before working out again (about $203  on suunto.com  )
  • Try Fitbit, a monitor you wear on your wrist to track the quantity and quality of your sleep. ($99 fitbit.com )

In short, remember to relax, rest, and pay attention to your body.  As always, talk to your doctor if you have any concerns at all. Sometimes it’s true; you can get too much of a good thing!

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Date: Wednesday, 20. October 2010 20:12
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