The term “Longevity” means Long life and I think we all are in the pursuit of this in our athletic career. How can we stay on top of our game for the longest period of time without getting injured or burned out?
More and harder is not always the best recipe for progress. There is a misconception that if you are not lying on the floor dying after a workout, then your session was a failure.
Finding the right balance between volume and intensity is all about listening to your body to avoid “burn out” and injuries. There is a fine line between too much and too little, and it’s your job to find your line and stick to it no matter the circumstances. Understanding that the body sometimes needs rest is imperative for longevity in any sport.
Sometimes our so-called “burn out” can happen due to an imbalance and disharmony of the autonomic nervous system. I will try to simplify and explain this part of our nervous system and how it can cause the emotional and physical state that we call “burn out”. The autonomic nervous system is divided into 3 categories, and I will describe 2 of them for you; the sympathetic and our parasympathetic nervous system.
The Sympathetic nervous system is what is activated during a “Fight or Flight” situation where the body increases heart rate, muscle contractions and blood flow. The Parasympathetic nervous system is what we know as the “Rest and digest” state, which I understand as almost the opposite of the SNS. If your autonomic system works well, that means your SNS and PNS are in balance, which leads to good training and recovery.
Often in high intensity sports such as Crossfit, athletes can have an overexposure to sympathetic nervous system activation, which can decrease the dopamine production. Dopamine is basically the kick ass chemical in your brain that makes you feel awesome. Essentially this is what makes you come back everyday and is what made you fall in love with fitness in the first place. When your SNS and PNS isn’t working in harmony you might lose this feeling, which can lead to depression and just overall lack of enjoyment.
So how do you prevent this? Well… I’m no expert and I can’t go into crazy scientific details, but what I can do is to share with you what I know from what I’ve read, heard and experienced.
You might think I’m about to give you a super detailed long recipe to avoid the crash and burn… but I’m not. More often than not all you need is REST. All dependent on who you are, how much you train, what you do during training, and what intensity you do it at… different rules apply. An overall guideline that I believe can apply to anyone is that you need at least one rest day a week.
Rest day means no training and no going to the gym. In some periods where you might feel over trained and fatigued physically/mentally a sort of deload week could and should be considered. Learn to stop before just enough becomes too much. Pay attention to how you feel, practice anticipating that point of contentment before you reach it, so that you can wind down in time.
This is simply a small part of the spectrum when it comes to longevity in the sport of fitness and I hope that you will start listening to your body more and making sure to rest accordingly to your activity level.