Monday, January 23, 2012

Overtraining, Tendonitis, and the Importance of Variety in Movement

Whether you’re painting, lifting weights, running, walking your dog, or clicking a mouse, if you do the same thing day after day without fail, you will very likely end up either with an injury or with a muscular imbalance that feels just like an injury. The difference is important, and often only a physician can help you determine what your course of treatment should be.

But there are some typical signs to look out for to let you know when you’re in the state known as “overtrained”:

First and foremost, you have a pain, dull or sharp, that just won’t get better and, mostly, it would be located near one of your joints. Also, it actually feels better with movement (like when you do the same exercise that seemingly caused the pain), but it is stiff and painful when you haven’t moved for a while (like first thing in the morning). If this sounds like you, you probably have tendonitis. Tendonitis is simply inflammation of a tendon (the tissue that connects muscle to bone) and it happens when your muscles are out of balance with each other. You may be very strong, but if one of your muscles lags behind surrounding or supporting muscles, it becomes the weak link that causes tendonitis. It feels horrible because your body wants you to pay attention to it and change what you’re doing so that it can get well! Often, if the problem hasn't gone too far, you can work it out yourself with yoga or Pilates (unless that's what you've been overdoing) or even just by changing up your routine (yay for Zumba!). For more serious cases, though, physical therapy might be the ticket. It usually works like magic to heal tendonitis, and often the physical therapy will be proper resistance exercises that strengthen the entire muscle group at the location of the problem.

Some other signs of overtraining are general fatigue, accelerated heart rate first thing in the morning, loss of appetite, loss of libido, depression, insomnia, and irritability. Whenever you notice that you’re just “not yourself”, it’s time to check in with whoever you are and figure it out!

The point of this discussion is that it is important to understand that our bodies work best when we incorporate a wide variety of movements into our lives. Just like we need a wide variety of foods to be healthy, our skeletomuscular system craves change. Rest is important, but even too much resting is going to cause a problem. Balance is the key, but it’s also the hardest thing to achieve. Why? Because once you have it, it changes again. And again. And again! Forever, as long as we live.