My Truths #170 (overtraining)

by Stephanie

Setting aggressive goals can be bad for your physical and mental health. I have a girlfriend who, a couple of years back, started training for endurance events. Last year she completed a triathalon and this year her goal is to complete a full marathon. She has been training very hard to the point of being almost obsessed. She runs…a lot. She also has a personal trainer that kicks her butt several times a week. She posted this message recently in an “active living” Facebook group

“I’m struggling… Finished a 30 km run on Sunday. In pain both mentally and physically. However, the mental part was worse. I’m pushing my body to its physical limits and its taking its toll. I have to be honest and say that I truly wished my hamstring would pop or my quad tear so I could have a valid excuse NOT to do a full marathon in 4 weeks… I think I can convince myself to do it but I’m not sure I’m really going to be happy with my results. I’ve had some serious convos w myself and asked myself lots of questions: A marathon is 42.2 km, isn’t just finishing it enough? No! You know you can do it, but is the stress worth it? Maybe? You’ve come this far and put this much effort, don’t you want to just be done with it? Argh!!! Some wise gal once told me that long distance racing is as much of a mental game as a physical one. Trying to convince myself to push it and get it done. Any words of encouragement??”

She received a lot of pep talks and cheerleading from the group but not from me. I messaged her privately to say:

“I read your post about being tired and looking for motivation to complete the marathon. I know you’ve been training for this and I think you need to follow your gut. If you think you can complete it safely then go for it but when you finish I think you should take some time to read up about overtraining. I’m going to send you a few links to look at”.

There’s no doubt in my mind that this woman is overtraining and headed for a burnout or injury. Plus she’s really not doing her body any favours! Before I discovered the Primal movement I always believed that more exercise was better. I’ve since learned that there is a strong body of evidence that indicates that, in the case of exercise, you CAN overdo it and that overtraining can cause a multitude of negative consequences. Check out this great article on the 8 Signs You Are Overtraining by Mark Sisson.

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Photo source: http://trainwithgreg.com

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