If you are currently in training for something, or are a frequent exerciser, you need to read this. We are into late February now, and many of us are about 7 weeks into our new years resolutions….that is, if you have kept it up. Maybe you did not set a new years resolution, but you have started back training with your team or club since early January. Six weeks in is a crucial point in the program. The first few weeks are fuelled by new years drive and the hope of a fresh start and greener pastures.
Both scenarios described above are admirable, and can indeed lead you to a better quality of life, or closer to your goals. But the end of February can also present many pitfalls that can cause you to fall off the wagon. We Start with all guns blazin’, with the intention of keeping up the pace for the whole year. This will result in an imminent breakdown somewhere in the body. It might be a cold or flu, an injury, or a disease, but will ultimately put you off course for achieving your goal. With that in mind, I have put together a top 10 list of warning signs that things are going off course for you. If you pay attention to them, you can stop the rot, and stay on course to hit your target, whatever that may be. Here goes:
Dehydration reduces performance. That is a fact. If you are allowing yourself to become dehydrated, it is a sign that your motivation has dropped, and your performance dip will shortly follow. We need water to survive and function properly. Not just for our sporting activities but for our digestion, general health, staving of diseases, energy levels, concentration…the list goes on. Drink 2 litters of water a day on a regular day, and 3 on a training day and you should be ok. Add a pinch of organic sea salt to each litre to get the most out of your efforts.
2. Poor digestion
If you find yourself with bloating after certain foods, constipated, diarrhoea, passing gas regularly, or with stomach pain after food, you have a problem. Being gassy is not ‘a sign of healthy food’, as a lot of people think. It’s a sign of poor digestion, and that something is not right with the digestive system, or that your are making poor food choices. The body will try to save the internal organs from the digestive stress to preserve your life, and will pass the burden to the joints. Injury or illness is coming down the road fast. You need to change your diet.
3. Lack of energy
If you lack energy during the day, or wake up in the morning still tired, then something is up. It could be that your diet is poor, that you are dehydrated, or that your body is using its energy to stave off an attack from some form of bug or illness. If this is the case, you really need to have someone take a look at your diet, and lifestyle. You could be overtraining and suffering from adrenal fatigue. Generally speaking, rest, reduce stress, drink water, and eat good food is the answer here. Sometimes, this is easier said than done, but you should spend the time doing it now. Otherwise, you are already in the doctors waiting room and you don’t even know it.
4. Insatiable appetite
If you find yourself constantly hungry, and unsatisfied after meals, then take heed! You are more than likely eating the wrong type of food, and trying to compensate for your lack of energy (see above) by over eating. This is not a good approach. You will encourage the cultivation of fungi and parasites in your body, which will wreak havoc with your internal systems. If your body is spending all its energy trying to deal with this mess, you will NOT be able to perform in your given activity, and will be more likely to add body fat with your over eating. Again, having a professional assess your lifestyle, eating, and training habits is key here.
5. Lack of concentration
Compare your concentration in your daily tasks now to when you started your training program, stepped it up, or started some new form of exercise. If it is greatly reduced, or you jump from one task to the next without finishing your set tasks, then there is trouble a-brew. If you have built up an amount of fatigue from your training, and your concentration is suffering, performance will suffer, and next thing you know you will be ill or injured. Address this as a warning sign before it gets that far. Take a step back, build your energy stores, and when you feel ready get the shoulder back to the wheel.
6. Loss of mobility
Loss of flexibility is a sign of over training. If you feel stiff and tight in certain areas (especially areas which you have injured before), then its time to act. Replace some of your weekly sessions with gentle recovery sessions. Mobility, foam rolling, staying well hydrated, and having the odd hot bath with Epsom salts and tae tree oil will all be your friends in this situation.
7. Loss of power
When you are training hard, sometimes you can expect to dip a bit in power towards the end of a training cycle. That is the time that you take a step back to allow the adaptations to your training to occur. Without this adaptation period, you will build up chronic fatigue and a consistent drop in power. You will actually be getting weaker and less powerful the more you train. Similar to number 6, if you feel constantly less powerful and less sprightly that you were at the beginning of your training cycle, then its time to take notice and pay more attention to your recovery sessions. Don’t be afraid to scale back your training for a week or two (or three if needed). Although this seems counter intuitive to stop training, you will actually gain from this. Test yourself in the vertical jump regularly and chart your jump heights as a measure of your power. You will have a greater jump after a period of recovery if you have slipped into a fatigued state.
8. Reduction in motivation
A reduction in motivation is a key sign of over training. Overtraining will lead to a suppressed immune system, injury, loss if interest in your task, reduced energy, and eventually an early exit from your chosen activity. If you find yourself lacking motivation, it is time to take stock of where you are at, take a break, try something new, reaffirm your goals, and get back on track when you are ready. Don’t plunder along at half pace hoping it will sort itself out. Variety is the spice of life and a bit of variation in training will bring you along.
9. Loss of good posture
If you notice poor posture habits slipping in, take this as a sign that your body has not even got enough energy to hold itself upright! If you cannot carry yourself, not only will your performance fall like a led balloon, but your movement mechanics will be greatly compromised, and you can ring ahead to the MRI centre even before your injury happens. The big giveaways here are an anterior pelvic tilt (bum sticking out and belly sticking out at front), and slouched shoulders. If you find yourself in this position, its time to tone down the hard sessions, and concentrate on the core work, diet, and mobility work.
10. Messy bedroom
Finally, this one is more important than it may seem. If your bedroom (or living room, kitchen ect) are a mess, first of all take the time to clean it up, but also take it as a sign that things are getting too busy in your life. If you are so busy that you are neglecting to keep a room where you spend 8-10 hours of every day in good condition, you are more than likely rushing from appointment to appointment, over working, over training and not leaving enough time to relax and look after yourself. In addition, remember that a clean room is a clean mind. If you are living amongst the clutter, more thank likely, this is a reflection of what’s going on in your mind. This will eventually lead to a breakdown down the line so get the hoover out and get the laundry done!
That’s it. 10 warning signs that something is not right. This list is not exhaustive, and in not universal, but will give you an idea of when a change is needed in your routine. If you have any more to add, leave a comment below. When you address some of the issues above, remember what brought on the warning sign in the first place. Then when you return to full activity, do so knowing what is beneficial and what will lead you down the path of an injury. You will know how many weeks you can train for, and become more aware of when a recovery period is needed. This will give you a more fulfilling journey to your goal, and will reduce the potential of a heartbreaking injury, and time sapping illness, and a disastrous drop out from your activity by many times over.