Avoid overtraining when getting back into shape

September 01, 2008

Now that your last excuse for not exercising just got on the school bus, you've got no reason not to get your lazy behind into shape.

September is typically a huge month for fitness centers after the lean summer months, and people just like you are eager to lose the potato salad pounds.

With this new drive and motivation, most people will overdo their efforts, and, eventually, overtraining and injury are almost inevitable. But I'm here to help. Here are some top tips to get the most from your efforts and avoid injury:

Get a thorough warmup and cooldown

So many injuries can be avoided just by properly warming up and cooling down.

Take 10 to 15 minute prior to the "meat" of your workout to do a bit of cardio and stretch your muscles. You will be better prepared to perform at a high level as you will have made tendons and ligaments more pliable and raised your core temperature a few degrees.


The cooldown is equally important as the warmup yet is often completely ignored. A nice slow walk and some additional stretching will go a long way in aiding recovery and getting your heartrate to a normalized rate. Once again, 10 to 15 minutes is ideal, depending on your fitness level.

Mix up your methods

You know I'm a big fan of cross-training. Your training should be balanced and have a good bit of variety from week to week, or even session to session. Bike one day, run the next, swim the day after.

Or, on the strength-training side, barbell bench press one week, dumbell bench the next week and do incline pushups the week after.

Overuse injuries are common in individuals who do the same activities day in and day out.

Get in, get it done, get out

Three-hour, marathon workouts aren't necessary, and can do more harm that good. Go into your session with a clear plan for the day and keep it under an hour. Some of my most successful clients train only 30 minutes. Most people waste time talking and resting way too long. I've always been a big believer in train harder, not longer.

Rest up

You can do low-intensity, cardio training pretty much every day. But your body needs around 48-72 hours of recovery after high-intensity, energy-heavy work like strength or heavy conditioning work.

Some of us recover faster than others, but listen to your body. Your body improves at rest, not while working, so give it the time it needs, and you'll come back feeling stronger and ready for another smack down.

Adopt these three strategies into your "comeback special" and you'll keep progressing, and greatly reduce the likelihood of injury.

Chad Smith is a local certified personal trainer and fitness expert. He can be reached via e-mail at

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