Warren Miller once said that even the sweetest dream is only slightly removed from a nightmare. In our pursuit for a fitter body, we often have to play the balance game between pushing ourselves enough and taking things too far. If we push ourselves hard enough, our dreams of a fit body will come true. But pushing too far can result in the nightmare of overtraining, injury and lack of motivation. Here are a few strategies I use to push myself to new heights while decreasing the risk of taking things too far:
Tip #1 To Avoid Overtraining – Not Always Training To Failure
It’s true that the body must be pushed to perform more work than it’s accustomed to for new levels to be reached. I used to think this meant always pushing until I couldn’t go anymore. However, now I know I can add weight, add reps or add sets, thus giving my body new stimulus, while hardly ever going to failure.
Once I began stopping each set a few reps short of failure, I discovered more energy, more strength and more endurance for the whole workout thus allowing me to reach new levels of performance without playing chicken with how deep I could push myself into the ground.
Tip #2 To Avoid Overtraining – 5X5 Training
This sort of training method is as simple as it sounds. You simply do 5 sets of 5 reps with a single weight, after a warm up. If I can’t do 5 sets of 5 reps with the same weight, then I back off on the weight a bit. If I am able to do all 5 sets of 5 reps with the same weight, I make a note to try a bit heavier weight the next time.
Tip #3 To Avoid Overtraining – Ending a Workout When Your Energy Level Starts To Go Down
My workouts are 50% planned out and 50% reactive to how I’m feeling that day. One of the aspects I leave up to my intuition is when I finish a workout. I pay attention to how my energy level is during the warm up and the first 15-20 minutes of the workout. From that point on I’m on the lookout for when my energy level starts to dip. Once I feel it starting to consistently slide down, I call it a day.
If I feel like my energy level is draining too early or too quickly, I look to lifestyle factors such as sleep and nutrition to where I’m slacking off. There is little sense in pushing myself into exhaustion in a workout because of less than optimal eating or sleeping habits.
Tip #4 To Avoid Overtraining – Doing a Few Reps at 30 or 60 Second Intervals
For this strategy, you set a timer for 30 or 60 second intervals and each time the timer goes off you do a few reps (usually 5-8 reps). When the chime goes off again, you do it again. This keeps a workout fast paced and consistent while also not forcing you to do as many reps as you possibly can all at once. It’s a method that pushes you and forces you to recover at the same time. Most people go with 5-10 sets of this but do whatever you feel is best for you.
Tip #5 To Avoid Overtraining – Play With Your Cardio
For cardio that doesn’t beat you up, you’re going to have to jump off the machine and get out into the real world. The key is to exercise in an environment that doesn’t have a consistent speed or distance requirement. From here you simply head outside and just go, varying the speed and intensity however you see fit. I like to do this on my bike in the city. I ride down stairs, sprint up short hills, cruise through neighborhoods and do whatever I feel like. I don’t pay attention to my heart rate monitor or my pace. I just go and ride my bike like a kid playing around. It’s surprising how refreshing this sort of cardio can be!