We all know that exercising too little is bad for our health, but exercising too often is equally detrimental. Our bodies are not optimised to constantly surpass our limits. If we ignore our bodies’ needs for movement diversity and recovery, we risk experiencing the negative physiological and psychological effects of overtraining.
What is overtraining?
Overtraining is defined as: constant intense training without providing adequate time for recovery. Overtraining often results from adding more frequency, intensity, and time to training sessions, without increasing recovery time to match. It exposes the body to more than it can handle, leading to incomplete recovery and a decline in physical and mental health, and fitness.
Signs and Symptoms of Overtraining
Overtraining impacts your whole body, including your musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, hormonal, endocrine, immune, and nervous systems. It can cause any of the following symptoms:
Ongoing muscle and joint soreness/tenderness
Decreased performance and strength
Loss of coordination
Increased musculoskeletal and overuse injuries
Elevated resting heart rate and blood pressure
Altered menstrual cycle
Persistent colds or infections
Unexplained weight loss
Feeling slow or “heavy”
Overtraining also affects your mood and mental wellbeing, leading to any or all of the following signs and symptoms:
Lack of motivation or enthusiasm
Elevated stress levels
How to Avoid Overtraining
The solution to bouncing back from, and avoiding overtraining in the first place, is simple: self-awareness and self-care.
Overtraining doesn’t happen after just one workout. Instead, overtraining is the result of putting your body through too much, too often, too soon.
Mindfulness can increase your self-awareness before, during, and after your training sessions as it teaches you to listen and respond to your body. Adding mindfulness, such as Qigong, equips you with the self-awareness tools you need to prevent, identify, and address signs and symptoms of overtraining before your physical and mental health is derailed.
Do you ever feel guilty for skipping your higher intensity workout in favor of an active recovery or rest day? Though our bodies’ may be telling us we need it, the culture of Western fitness can portray recovery as a fitness failure instead of much needed self-care. While it’s true you won’t reach your training goals if you consistently camp out on the sofa, it’s also true that your health, fitness, and performance will take a nosedive if you push yourself too far and ignore your body’s need for recovery and balance.
In addition to encouraging your body to reclaim homeostasis, mindfulness practices also reduce stress and elevate your sense of self-compassion, promoting both physiological and psychological balance.
As a form of mindful movement, all Qigong exercises aim to promote experience physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Traditionally performed at the end of a Qigong session, Standing Medical Qigong is a powerful regenerative exercise that can also be performed as a stand-alone practice. Also known as Zhan Zhuang, Standing Medical Qigong combines visualization, breath exercises, and mindfulness techniques to increase self-awareness, soothe your nervous system, and promote physical and mental homeostasis. Despite having no external movements, Standing Medical Qigong will positively challenge and increase your focus and fitness by listening to your body.
How to Practice Standing Medical Qigong with Four Gate Breathing
Stand comfortably, with your feet approximately shoulder-width distance apart, knees gently bent, and pelvis tucked slightly forward (posterior tilt).
Rest your arms slightly away from your sides, palms forward
Relaxing your eyes, gently focus your gaze on one spot in front of you.
Inhale as you circle your arms out to the side and overhead.
Bring your fingertips together overhead, palms down.
Exhale as you press your hands down the centerline of your body, passing in front of your forehead, sternum, and lower abdomen.
Lower your arms by your sides, palms forward and fingers gently spread.
Direct your attention from the centerpoints of your palms and the soles of your feet (the Four Gates).
Inhale as your attention travels from the centerpoint of your palms and feet and up the limbs until you reach your lower abdomen.
Exhale as your attention travels from your lower abdomen and down the limbs until you again reach the centerpoint of your palms and feet.
Complete 8 to 64 rounds of Four Gate Breathing. It boosts circulation, bringing your blood flow from your core to your extremities, which helps your muscles heal faster.
Once complete, stack your palms on your lower abdomen, beneath your navel (right hand on top for women; left hand on top for men).
Begin taking slow abdominal breaths, feeling the referred movement of your diaphragm beneath your hands.
Repeat for a total of eight abdominal breathes, simply observing the movement and sensation of breathing intentionally.
Striking a mindful balance between challenging yourself and self-care can help you avoid overtraining, achieve your fitness goals, and enjoy a healthy lifestyle of physical, mental, and emotional balance. For more practical tips on self-care, holistic fitness, and mindfulness, visit our blog or dive into our library of online courses and e-books.