Tips to Stick to Your Workout and Not to Over-Train

Over-training anxiety is a serious problem in the circus/dance community and leads to injury and burnout. Here are some tips to avoid it.

Why do we over-train?

This process may sound familiar to many of you:

  1. Feel discontent with something about your body (size, shape, ability, performance, etc)

  2. Set an ambitious workout schedule to quickly make the changes you want to see

  3. Work out. Like a lot. Really hard. Endorphines churning and muscles burning. It’s happening.

  4. I’m tired. Why does my knee hurt? What’s this clicking in my shoulder?

  5. I need to take a few days off, this is too much.

  6. Forget it. That goal wasn’t realistic anyway. My body just can’t do that thing I want it to do.

  7. Stop working out.

  8. Back to step one

Why do we do this to ourselves, often over and over again?

If we don’t have communication with our bodies we approach fitness as an exercise of willpower, of “mind over matter.” But in truth it is a relationship of mind and matter, working together.

Sure, having a conversation with your body may not be fun. Imagine being in the same room as someone for years and completely ignoring them every time they try to get your attention. When you finally turn to them and say “Hey, so what’s going on with you?” you might get an earful!

Your body might need to complain a little bit. It does that by aching, getting stiff, having weird shooting pains, and being very tired. The important thing is to start by just noticing it. We tend to skip this step and go right to fixing it, as fast as we can. But how can you fix something that you can’t feel?

So before you leap into your New Year’s resolutions about gym memberships and splits challenges and the like, take a moment to have a conversation with your body. Then keep that conversation going, before, during, and after your workouts. Over-training isn’t going to get you where you want to go any faster than not training at all.

A few tips to avoid over-training:

  1. Start your workout with a solid warm-up in which you deeply feel and assess each part of your body that you will use for your workout. If something feels icky, spend extra time loving it up.

  2. Don’t go from 0 to 60 in 5 seconds! If you have been working out once or twice a week, go up to three or four. Not 10 or 12.

  3. I’m serious, you have to sleep. That’s when you actually get in better shape. When you work out you stress your body, when you sleep you grow it.

  4. Recognize that your emotional state has a huge effect on your workout. If you are in a negative emotional state that is not a good time to push yourself to the max.

And most of all… remind yourself as often as necessary that whatever it is you want to accomplish in your workouts, you aren’t able to do it alone. You are doing it with your body, not to your body. Your body must be a willing partner in this enterprise or it will fail. That may mean some compromise is necessary.

But you only get this one body. And you’re stuck with each other.

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