Listening to Your Body to Avoid Overtraining

So, its been quite a while since I've posted! I've been itching to post again, and I've certainly learned a lot in the last couple of years, but probably the most important (and most cliche) is I've learned to listen to my body!

What does listening to your body get for you? Very importantly, it helps you avoid injury. Hand in hand with avoiding injury, it helps one to ride the natural peaks and valleys in your physical and mental capability to avoid overtraining. Its not possible for us to perform at our peak potential all the time. If we try to, we become prone to overtraining syndrome. Being in an overtrained state is very detrimental to athletic performance and general well being. Listening to our bodies can give us an indication of when our body is primed to tackle a tough project, and when it needs a few days of rest.

Why is it so important to avoid overtraining? It can take 3-6 weeks (or longer in extreme cases) to fully recover from an overtrained state. Long term fatigue is no joke, and not something you want to invite upon yourself! Sometimes by taking an extra day of rest, or dialing back the intensity for just a few training sessions, we can save ourselves weeks of recovery.

So back to that listening to your body thing, we hear it all the time, but what does that mean exactly? I think its really easy for people to listen very intently but not hear a thing! Its very helpful to have some things in mind that we should be listening for.

  • athletic performance
  • general mood and energy level
  • level of alertness in the morning
  • difficulty falling asleep
  • sex drive
  • shortness of breath from everyday activities
  • achey body and joints
  • for climbers especially - chronically inflamed finger joints

If you are usually flashing V5s, but lately are struggling on V4s, this is a pretty loud signal that your body needs a little break. It may be counter intuitive to stop training when you are performing poorly, but always keep in mind that quality exercise and training is far more valuable than a high quantity! Perfect practice makes perfect!

The indicator that I've found to be very reliable for myself is my general mood and energy level. If my motivation is high and my mood is positive, I know my body is probably ready for action. If I'm struggling to warm up, and not having fun, I know that its probably time for me to dial it back a bit.

Sleep is so important for recovery when training, and ironically when we get into an overtrained state, our bodies find it more difficult to sleep easy. Pay attention to your sleep cycles, if are having difficulty here, it could be a sign that its time for yet more sleep.

If you typically bound up stairs without shortness of breath or increased heart rate, and suddenly those same stairs don't feel so easy - watch out.

If you are waking up every day with achey joints, and especially for climbers - swollen fingers! Take it easy! Stop the campus board sessions, stop the weighted dead hangs, just go have some fun climbing and don't be so serious.

If you know me, you know that I'm fairly obsessed with planning my training and workouts, but sometimes you got to throw the hardcore training plan out the window in favor of just having fun - it gives your brain and body a break, and helps to avoid overtraining and injury. Just having fun in the gym or outside on rocks can renew your motivation to train and in the end training less might make you stronger than training more!

As always, quality over quantity, happy training.