If you’ve been following fitness blogs for a while, you’ve probably heard the saying “consistency is key”. When it comes to setting goals and smashing them, its pretty good advice for the most part, however, it’s not strictly true. Now this isn’t to say you can kick back and take it easy and still achieve some incredible results, far from it, but you just have to be a bit smart about it.
The problem with consistency is that people try to obliterate themselves day in day out, for weeks, and months on end with high intensity training sessions. This coupled with little to no recovery strategies will inevitably lead people down 2 paths; path number 1 is injury and path number 2 is overtraining & burnout (potentially leading to injury).
Injuries aren’t uncommon when it comes to physical exercise and there’s always a risk that you could pick up an injury at any given time. This can be a freak accident, or something that could be avoided. Where there are risks, there are risk factors and the job of a coach is to minimize these so that you can train in the safest environment possible; another great reason to hire a coach for your training sessions.
When it comes to training, a major risk factor is that the body hasn’t fully recovered from the last session or even a block/period of training you’ve completed. This means that the body isn’t ready to exercise and as a result you could be exposing yourself to a higher risk of injury. Now most of the time this is something minor like a slight muscle pull, however injuries like muscle tears or snapped ligaments aren’t uncommon and can cause some long-term problems for your exercise goals.
Overtraining & Burnout
Overtraining & burnout can actually be a hell of a lot harder to overcome than an injury. When you’re injured you can at least focus on your recovery to get back into it, however, when you’re over-trained you probably couldn’t think of anything worse. Battling your mind is a lot harder than just simply saying “I’m going to get motivated now”, it’s a condition which has built up over a long period of time as a result of training too hard for the recovery strategies you employ.
When you’re over-trained you feel tired, lethargic and often dread going to the gym. This is your body’s way of telling you to take it easy and not listening can lead to burnout or injuries. Now, overtraining isn’t what you experienced when you simply “can’t be bothered” this is a chronic state in which you really struggle to motivate yourself when normally you’re fine and enjoy exercising.
The trick is knowing when to take a step back and let your body have a bit of a rest and not beat yourself up about it. If you imagine your body as a car engine, if you drive constantly at 100 mph it is going to break down eventually and cause more problems than if you just ease off the throttle for a little bit.
So, you may ask, if not consistency, what should I be aiming for in my training? Well, that is what I would call sustainability. If your goal is to run a marathon, you don’t want to burn out half way through because you sprinted at the start and progressively got slower as the race goes on. No, you’ll want to keep a good average speed, potentially with periods of higher intensity and lower intensity running.
Taking the example of a marathon, this is what we look for with fitness training. Overall we want to maintain a certain level of intensity, however this doesn’t mean it always has to be high. Sustaining an effort is as much about managing your energy and time as it is about putting yourself through grueling workouts. Allow your body a bit of time off and it will reward you with the results you desire.
A great way to visualize this is your bank account. If you spend more than you have coming in, then eventually you will end up with no money. To have a positive bank balance you will need to regulate your income/outcome balance over the course of the year. This may mean that you have periods of higher expenditure, but then you will compensate this by having periods of lower spending.
It should go without saying that not being able to train due to injury or not wanting to train due to burnout are probably the two things you definitely don’t want to be doing, so how do we avoid them? The answer lies in a well structured, periodized program including proper recovery and nutrition strategies.
This is when we take your goals, and make a systematic plan of how we will hit them in the next year, 6 months, month week and even individual sessions. With a periodized program, a coach can effectively monitor and track your workouts, prescribe adequate loads and intensities, whilst also being able to plan appropriate ‘de-load’ periods. Monitoring can range from just assessing your mood/ability to train intensely to the super advanced tracking systems used in elite sport like GPS trackers, sleep tracking and psychological assessments.
So in short, if you’re feeling run down and dread training but fear not going, give yourself a week off, or a week of planned lower intensity sessions. Your body will thank you so much and will be ready to smash it when you back to it. Sustainability is the key.
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