Overtraining is the blight of the dedicated competitive rugby player, to the point where workouts start to weaken your body.

You will begin to see the symptoms of overtraining at that point when your powers of recovery fail to match up to the volume and intensity of your exercise regime – your muscles will be constantly sore and tight; your resting heart rate will have increased, just as your immunity to disease and injury has decreased; you may have feelings of depression and crabbiness; and insomnia and weight loss may dog you.

Going to the gym or the playing field will need a herculean effort. Your body is showing all the signs of overtraining. It’s time for a little rest.

How to combat the effects of overtraining

Your rugby-training regime should always contain a day of cooling-down with decreased exercise and you should be wary of exceed seven hours per week. One of the benefits of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is that, instead of saddling up for a long slog on the exercise bike, you can alternate a short burst of, say, five minutes of 90-110RPM at 80% maximal heart rate, with a relaxed 3-4 minutes cycling of 70RPM at 50% maximal HR.

HIIT allows you to expend the same or similar cardiovascular energy in a shorter time frame, and you won’t face the danger of overworking muscles such as your calves with the intermittent cool-down periods. Switching up your energy systems will help prevent overtraining, however if you still feel your body calling for rest, then load up on the carbs & protein get to yoga or pilates for some mobility sessions.

After finishing a match, you will need at least 36 hours to regenerate your body, and the shortfall of recovery can be exacerbated by illness, jetlag, a poor diet and overworking already tired muscles.

Massaging your moaning muscles

If you are beginning to spot the symptoms of overtraining, book yourself in for a session of massage, or learn how to do it to yourself. This is the most effective way of releasing all the constant muscle tension you will be feeling and of restoring balance to your musculo-skeletal system.

You will also avoid injury because tense muscles may produce stresses that will damage your joints, tendons and ligaments. If you will to self-massage, try the Yamuna Body Rolling (BR) system, where you use a special 15cm ball to roll out the muscles in your knees, calves, back and shoulders, as well as lengthening your hamstrings – attempt 5 minutes on each of these areas on your rest day, as well as those places that are showing the signs of overtraining.
If you can master the BR system, you will save yourself the cost of hiring a massage therapist.

Blowing hot and cold

Temperature contrast therapy means the use of ice baths and hot and cold showers to stimulate your nerve system so that it in turn kick-starts your immune system, as well as improving your circulation, digestion, blood flow and a decrease in production of stress hormones.

If you have access to two baths, try to spend two minutes in an ice bath of around 20-25 degrees C (your supermarket should stock bags of ice cubes) followed by a minute in a warmer-than-usual hot tub, repeat this for 20 minutes in total – your legs and body will feel re-energised, and you will experience that “runner’s high” for a couple of hours. More importantly, your muscles will not settle into a state of post-exercise tension. If you do not have access to two baths then try only 1 cycle with an ice bath and warm shower.

Nailing your vitamin and calorie intake

Your calorific intake must match the energy you’re expending, or else you will lack the nutrients you need for proper recovery – food high in lean proteins such as chicken will rebuild overtrained muscles, carbohydrates will refuel your tired body and omega 3 oils found in tuna and mackerel will relieve any depression, a symptom of overtraining.

Of course, stay hydrated by trying to drink 2-3 litres of water every day and consuming fruits rich in vitamins such as pineapples and oranges – your calcium, chromium, iron and potassium levels also need to be upped in the early stages of overtraining. Calculate your calorie intake that you need with an online TDEE calculator. You may surprise yourself how many calories you need.

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