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Body needs cycles of rest

By Reggie Palma

LAST UPDATED: 1:59 a.m. HST, Aug 3, 2010

Overtraining isn't just for top athletes. It can apply to anyone who exercises, and could be the underlying cause of many hiccups toward progress.

Think of overtraining as "overusing" your body. The body needs cycles of rest from any repetitive activity to give those active systems a chance to "reboot" the physiological factors necessary to completing those tasks. Besides running the risk of injury, overtraining signals the body to shift into a form of shutdown mode in which change or progress is stalled in an effort to protect itself from further harm.

The avid runner logging in many miles per week could do well to add in "active rest" cycles involving motions and muscle groups unrelated to running to give those muscle groups a chance to replenish themselves. The person who is exercising for health or weight loss reasons should keep his or her workouts different and take steps to ensure he or she is working within his or her body's limits.

Signs of overtraining include persistent muscle stiffness and pain, insomnia, a weakened immune system, loss of appetite, headaches, lack of enthusiasm for the activity, muscles feeling heavy and unresponsive, lack of intensity, the activity feeling harder than it should, and an increase in resting heart rate.

To circumvent this phenomenon or treat it once it has occurred, follow these general guidelines:

» Decrease or stop the level of activity for a few days.

» Practice "active rest." This refers to changing your usual mode of exercise.

» Drink plenty of fluids.

» Get at least six to eight hours' sleep.

» Incorporate a comprehensive flexibility routine into your workout schedule, as this will give your body a chance to recover and lengthen muscle fibers.

Reggie Palma is a exercise physiologist and personal trainer. He has a fourth-degree black belt in the Filipino martial art kali.

Note: Tips based on a person who wants to lose 30 pounds, leads a sedentary lifestyle, has little exercise experience and is a yo-yo dieter. This person also has a full-time job that imposes time limitations. Consult a physician before starting any diet or fitness regimen.

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