There’s a variety of fitness-minded people who are so passionate about their goals, their activity of choice, that they won’t let anything stand in their way. They are single-minded about gaining the muscle, losing the weight, looking good in a swim suit, setting a new personal record.
Other members of this fitness-minded group just don’t like to admit the truth. They keep on trucking along with their chosen activity even when their body says “no.” They keep on going, even when their body says “hell no.”
Being unstoppable is a top-notch quality. If you push yourself to reach a goal and believe you’ll reach a goal, you are much more likely to be successful. Having passion about fitness will most likely provide you with a healthy, long life… unless you get injured or bump into overtraining – then your path isn’t quite so linear.
I’m one of those unstoppable people. I love weight lifting and hate slowing down. But lately I’ve had an unexplainable, off-and-on fatigue that can last all day, and certain muscles feel very tired. There’s also a touch of – ahem- irritability on those days (who me?).
I had a variety of tests done awhile back and know that I am ridiculously healthy. So I took a deep breath and started looking hard at my workouts.
Reasons to Evaluate… or STOP
There are signals that should stop you, or at least make you pause so you can evaluate. The consequences of ignoring symptoms of workouts gone bad are worse than bad workouts, including having to stop what you love and putting aside pursuing your goals indefinitely. Being unstoppable means recognizing when it’s time to slow down. Always be on the lookout for the following signals.
It’s a fact: Many unstoppable fitness-minded people continue to exercise despite having pain. Shoulder pain is a common example. You try to work through it – it’ll get better, right? So you do some stretches, maybe lighten up the weights a little. You do anything but actually visit a doctor and get an x-ray.
Unfortunately, continuing chest presses, shoulder presses, pushups, or any other exercise that hurts is simply setting yourself up for failure. If you have pain during an exercise, STOP. Your body is telling you something important – joints are not aligned properly, muscles are not firing correctly, inflammation is happening – and it’s not going to be fixed by continuing. If you have ongoing (or acute) shoulder, knee, or ankle pain, visit to your doctor before the pain becomes surgery down the road. Also check out the things you can do to be proactive about preventing shoulder pain.
If you lift heavy all the time, you can experience symptoms of overtraining. You can also overdo it if you lift too frequently or have overly long workout sessions (90 minutes plus).
If you have any of these symptoms, you may be overtraining:
- Sleep problems
- Irritability, depression, lack of enthusiasm
- Decreased appetite
- Weight loss
- Muscle soreness or joint pain
- Frequent colds, infections, etc.
There are other symptoms of overtraining that apply to specific sports, but the list above could result from any overtraining in any activity.
I’m adding this category as an afterthought but it’s an excellent reason to lighten up, take a week off, or change things up. If you’re not seeing progress within six to eight weeks, you need to reevaluate. Progress can be measured by getting stronger, getting bigger, having more stability, etc.
What’s the Solution?
I may be unstoppable, but I can slow down. Weight lifting should ideally be done using periodization, or a cycling schedule. This means the intensities should be varied week to week, not lifting heavy all the time (as I’ve been known to do). Instead of lifting at 85% intensity week after week, I’m going to lift at 65% intensity some weeks. This will give my body a chance to recover while also promoting more growth by letting it adapt to different intensities (thereby avoiding a plateau). Focusing on balance and stability can also give your body a chance to recover. And of course, if I feel especially tired, I can always skip a workout or two. It won’t stop the world.
Also, simply the way you arrange your workout week can provide adequate rest.
Remember the price of ignoring symptoms: Not being able to do what you love and not meeting your goals. It’s not just your performance or your goals that could suffer… you could be out of commission for weeks or months due to an injury.
Simply paying attention to unusual symptoms can save you a world of trouble. Listen to your body. And respect it.