Over training is something that most athletes are likely to encounter at some point in their life. It can be tough to spot, but it's important to address. We investigate the causes, the signs, and how to solve it.
Causes of Over training
Over training is exactly what it says on the tin: when you over-train your body so that it can't recover properly. If you are training particularly hard for an event and limiting your calorie intake to try and get lean or lose weight, there is a high risk of developing the symptoms of over training. It takes quite a lot to get to this point, so it is more common in long-distance runners who are running hundreds of miles a month or bodybuilders who are lifting weights every day while trying to drop body fat than your average gym-goer.
If you are over training, you will be deficient in many of the vital vitamins and minerals the body needs to function properly and you will notice the signs but perhaps not realise they are due to over training as these symptoms can also be caused by many other factors.
Signs of Over training
Persistent muscle soreness
If you are feeling sore and achy for longer periods than normal this could be due to over training. Your muscles need time to recover properly and with the right nutrition.
Elevated resting heart rate
Keeping an eye on your resting heart rate is a great way to check that you're not over training. If your resting heart rate is elevated for more than 3 days, you could be over training. Most smart watches and fitness trackers will track your heart rate all day so it is easier than ever to keep it in check.
Increased susceptibility to infections
Over training will cause your immune system to become weaker so you will notice that you'll be suffering from colds more often and other low-level immune conditions. If you feel like you are always getting ill, it could be a sign of over training.
In the same way, you could also notice that you're suffering from injuries more often than usual as well. They could be little things like pulling a muscle or developing cramp every time you train, but these are all signs of over training.
Insomnia, or lack of sleep, is something that can be caused by a number of health issues. However, if you are also developing the other symptoms of over training, this one will be easy to spot.
Take a break
This is the most obvious solution but it's also the most important. It can be hard to allow yourself enough rest days, especially when training for an event, but it's so important to listen to your body and allow it to recover properly when you are training hard. Don't train muscles when they are already aching and don't push through injuries.
Reduce the volume
If you usually do 5 sets of an exercise, drop it to 2 or 3. If you usually lift 80% of your max, reduce it to 50-60% until you are feeling better. Reduce your mileage if you are a runner or triathlete. Ease yourself back into training full pelt when you are ready.
Increase calorie intake
If you are trying to lose weight or strip body fat, it may be tempting to restrict your calorie intake too much. However, a restrictive diet will mean you lose out on vital vitamins and minerals and this will lead to the symptoms of over training.
Listen to your body!There is nothing more important than being healthy and well. No race or competition should come before your health. Listen to your body and take it easy, you will see better results if you work together with your body rather than against it.
Have you ever wondered why your friends can dance so much better than you? Or why you sometimes trip over your own feet? Do they throw you things and you always drop them? It's most likely because you have reduced proprioception.
Proprioception is your awareness of your own body and movements. Improving your proprioception can help improve your balance, coordination, and make every day tasks easier. It could even improve your confidence and mental health as you will feel more at home in your own body and more in control of your life.
So do you want to be able to execute an awesome catch when your friend throws you something or move with more confidence? Try the following exercises to improve your proprioception and see if it could help improve other areas of your life too.
Perform exercises and daily tasks with your eyes closed
Have you ever noticed that balancing on one leg is much harder when you close your eyes? When you close your eyes, you lose the visual cues that your brain is used to so it has to work harder to balance. With your eyes closed, you are forced to become more attuned to your surroundings and you will be able to practise controlling your body and your movements.
If you practise daily tasks with your eyes closed (sensible options only please, no cutting or chopping with sharp knives in the kitchen!) you will find that your brain can connect more closely to your muscles and you will be able to improve your coordination and proprioception.
Learn a dance routine or try a group exercise class
Dancing is one of the best ways to improve your coordination and proprioception because it involves the entire body and requires the brain to coordinate every muscle group at once in a required sequence. If you think you have two left feet, try learning and practising a specific dance routine every day – you'll be surprised how quickly you improve!
Similarly, participating in a group exercise class can have a similar effect as you will be copying what the instructor is doing and commanding your body to move in the same way. This is great practice for improving your coordination and you'll be getting super fit at the same time!
Practise catching with one hand
We all have a dominant and less dominant side. It can be useful to improve the coordination and abilities of the less dominant side, such as practising catching with your left hand if your right-handed (and vice versa). Catching a ball with one hand specifically improves your hand-eye coordination which refers to the way your hands react to what your eyes see. If you miss the ball, it might be because you are closing your fingers too fast or not fast enough. By practising this exercise, you can train your hands and eyes to work together better and in turn improve your proprioception and hand-eye coordination.
Cycling can get a little scary at times, especially on busy roads or technical race courses. If you find that your training and racing is being hindered by a lack of bike handling skills and nervousness on the roads, we're here to help.
Practice your bike handling skills
This is something that all cyclists should be doing in order to improve their training and racing. If you lack proper bike handling skills, you will find that technical courses are a nightmare and that unforeseen circumstances like bad weather could mean a premature end to your race.
Skills such as riding on loose gravel, on wet roads, down steep descents, and round sharp bends are things that come with practice. Start off slow and somewhere you know well and build yourself up; the more you practice, the more your confidence will grow. Other skills such as single-leg riding can be practised indoor on a Wattbike, turbo trainer, or even just a stationary gym bike.
Ride in a group
They say there's safety in numbers, and this can certainly be true when cycling. When cycling in a fairly large group, you'll find that hazards become less scary as you can watch those up ahead tackle them first and motorists should give you more space.
Of course, that's not to say that cycling in a group is always safer and that you're guaranteed not to have run-ins with cars. However, working together as a team to overcome tough conditions can really help with your confidence.
Other skills to practice when riding in a group include making contact with other cyclists and riding very close to others. Your instinctive reaction when touched by another cyclist will be to look around at the person you've touched, but it's important to stay looking ahead at where you're going. Practice making quick contact with a friend or fellow group rider and then move on to practising keeping your hand on their shoulder as you ride. Skills such as this can improve your confidence in mass start events and will mean you know what to expect.
Get comfortable in the saddle
Receiving a proper bike fit from an accredited bike store can make a huge difference to your cycling, and it doesn't have to be expensive. Unless you're looking to really maximise your power output and aero position for serious racing, a basic bike fit can be inexpensive or even free of charge.
If you're comfortable in the saddle and your position over the handlebars feels good, you will feel much safer on the bike. If you constantly feel like you're over-reaching for the handlebars and brakes or that your legs are overstretched and you can't reach the ground comfortably, you might feel more nervous on your bike. Once you feel secure and like the bike is an extension of yourself, you will be able to handle it much more confidently and co-operate better together. Make sure you're in control of the bike and not the other way round!
Do a sportive
If you're nervous to ride on busy roads or in places you don't know well, it's a good idea to ride an organised race or sportive. These will always be well sign-posted so that you can't go the wrong way and you will be forced to face any challenging conditions that you'd usually avoid on your own.
This will be a great way of getting out of your comfort zone by riding somewhere unknown and having to face challenges head-on.
For many people, holding a handstand is the ultimate sign of fitness and strength as well as being fun to practice and satisfying when you get it right. But it is a difficult move, so how do you train for it and how do you hold a handstand for a long time? Read our guide to find out!
How do you train to do a handstand?
Mastering a handstand is like mastering any skill; it takes a lot of time, practice, and patience. You will need to work on your strength, especially in the upper body and core, by doing other exercises and workouts, which will in turn help you to get better at holding a handstand for a long time.
One of the main muscles used when holding a handstand is the core. Your core (or abs) will be holding your legs steady and keeping you balanced. Do plenty of core workouts and ab exercises to strengthen this part of the body to help you stay balanced and hold your perfect handstand.
As well as your core, your upper body will be holding your weight so you will need to be strong in this area. Do upper body strength training as well as body weight training to train your upper body muscles such as your shoulders so that they are strong enough to hold your weight.
How do I practice a handstand at home?
Practising a handstand at home is easy and you have lots of options. The best way to practice a handstand at home is by using a straight wall that you can kick up against. By allowing the wall to support your feet and legs, you can get used to the feeling of being upside down and holding your weight on your arms. You might find this quite taxing, so practice holding a handstand against a wall for a few minutes each day until your upper body gets stronger.
Once you find holding a handstand against a wall easier, you can try kicking up near the wall, but not letting your feet rest on it unless absolutely necessary. Hold the handstand yourself for as long as possible, then let your feet rest against the wall. Again, practice this for a few minutes each day until it gets easier. Then you should be ready to practice holding a full handstand!
If you have someone that can help you, another option is having someone hold your feet for you. This can be very helpful as they can adjust how much support they give you until they are barely supporting you, but still giving enough that you don't fall back down. Practice this a few times each day, with your supporter loosening their grip each time until you are used to the feeling of holding your own weight.
How do you do a controlled handstand?
The secret to doing the perfect handstand is maintaining it for a long time and keeping it controlled. It may seem like it just takes practice, however you also need to have strong core muscles and good balance. These are both things you can work on to improve your handstand technique and keep it controlled.
The best way to do a controlled handstand is to take your time and use your muscles to support you, rather than kicking your legs up wildly and hoping for the best. Breathe slowly and focus on your muscles working, keep everything tight and control that handstand!
Signing up for races can become pretty addictive, but these days you don't need to travel far to earn your bling. Virtual races are walking, running, or cycling races in which you track your activity and send proof to the organisers via email who then send you your medal in the post.
Virtual races tend to be a lot cheaper than traditional races and usually cost around £12. There are hundreds of different virtual races on offer in the UK and often they are accumulative, which means you do a certain number of miles over a specific time period in order to achieve your medal. Virtual racing can be a great way to stay motivated and is also a way to get more people involved in walking, running, and cycling. Many of the virtual racing organisations also donate some profits to charity so you know you're doing your part too!
Virtual Races With Medals
There are lots of different types of races on offer and you can go at your own pace to earn your medal. Some races are more challenging than others, but they are all a great way to stay motivated all year and can help to encourage more to people to get active. Some races involved running a certain distance in a month and some encourage you to just walk or run as far as you can in a specified time frame.
If you think you might be interested in joining a virtual race, there are two big players in the UK:
The benefits of doing virtual races
At a time when doing real races isn't possible, a lot of people are looking to do virtual races to keep them motivated. Having something to work towards can be hugely beneficial and can keep you focused on a goal. At a time when the future is very uncertain, having focus and discipline is needed more than ever.
By signing up to a virtual race, not only are you giving yourself that push and motivation to work towards a solid goal, you can also get other people involved and feel more connected to the racing community. Healthy competition is great for achieving goals and can keep your head in the right place.
The drawbacks of doing virtual races
Nothing will ever compare to doing a real race. That feeling of adrenaline on the start line, the other races by your side pushing your pace and keeping you focused. With virtual races, we can maybe put too much pressure on ourselves and without a solid event to go to, it is easy to lose motivation and maybe not perform at your best.
Make sure you don't put too much pressure on yourself and remember why you decided to start running or cycling in the first place. This is all for you, to help improve both your physical and mental wellbeing. Remember to have fun and enjoy the process!