Ooh Look! Something else that makes us sick

How to avoid overtraining syndrome

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Jovan Abernathy is an international marathoner and owner of Houston Tourism Gym. To claim your free tour, contact her at info@tourismgymhtx.com

So, I'm beginning to scout out my next runcation. This made me take a trip down memory lane. That's when I remembered my last full marathon. It was in Istanbul, Turkey. That was the hardest race I've ever run from training to the finish line.

I thought about the fact that I trained all by myself, the fact that I didn't have a coach. The trip cost $10,000, so I was working double and triple time (remember I was a waitress and that's a lot of shifts), the fact that I was so stressed that in my down time, I just ate and drank ( I believe an entire order of wings and cakes from Max's Wine Dive). One time, after a long day of work and training, as I climbed into bed, I was literally shaking uncontrollably.

When I got to Turkey, I had to get over jet-lag. We got sick and had to run sick (but I did it) and one of my travel companions was flat out trippin (women!") if this sounds like a nightmare, it was! So why did this happen?

Full disclosure: I had a faulty training program and suffered from overtraining syndrome. I know, I know. You are asking yourself, is that a real thing? It's real and I don't want it to happen to you. I'm going to tell you what it is, how you can diagnose it on yourself, and some low cost home remedies and preventative measures you can take.

So, what is it? Basically, due to a poorly planned training, (for anything, not just running) there is an imbalance between workout and recovery. No matter how the imbalance is, the result is poor habits, poor performance, and injuries. What's interesting is, that overtraining syndrome affects the mental, emotional, nutritional, and neurological well being of the athlete.

So what can we do to prevent this from getting to our bucket list destinations? Here they are:

Hydrate:

We are told this so many times. I'm guilty too. Sometimes, it just doesn't happen. Water keeps our muscles and joints lubed up. It makes recovery easy and there is less chance we get sick. Drinking anti-oxidant rich drinks like tart cherry and pomegranate juice gives an added boost.

Rest:

I know, we got goals! We can power through anything! No matter how strong you are, you need rest. So what is rest? Here are some examples:

  1. Getting off your feet and reading a book.
  2. Baking some cookies. ( you earned it).
  3. Watching a movie.
  4. Going to eat with friends.
Whatever you do, no training. Just don't overdo it.
Sleep:
Sleep is so crucial. Especially training. This is where all the training you have done gets put to work. Your muscles get repaired. Your brain is reset and every morning, you get to wake up excited about your training.
Soak:
This is such a treat. There is nothing quite as nice as ripping open a fresh bag of Dr. Teal's Epson Salt, pouring it in a steamy tub of water as hot as you can stand, lighting candles, and taking a nice long soak. You lay there listening to Jill Scott while inhaling the relaxing scent of grapefruit with charcoal. It is great for your mind and eases sore muscles.
Stretching:
When you get out of the tub, this is a great time to stretch your muscles. During any training, you will get aches and pains. Stretching a warm muscle will keep your muscles pliable and with the right tension. This season, I'm going to pay extra attention to this one. Not stretching is where most injuries happen. If you don't know what to do, you tube has many stretching and yoga videos.
Foam RollIng:
This is the foam tube that you see at the gym propped against the wall in the trainer's station. Most people look at this tool dumbfounded. Basically, you lay on the roller in various positions to hit your muscles at the right pressure points. It perfectly assists stretching to keep you without injury. You can use one at your gym, but you can buy your own for about $25 to $75 at stores like Academy, Amazon, or Target.
So, let's set some goals and plan workout and recovery in our training. It's easy to get lazy, but with practice, we can form good training habits.


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I met James Arthur Harris a pretty long time ago, it had to be before 2001, because I was at the gate waiting for his flight from New Orleans to land. I was supposed to pick him up, drive him to the Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza on Loop 610, wait for him to change into his work clothes, and get him to the George R. Brown before 3 p.m.

I had never met him, but it would be easy to pick him out in the line of passengers filing off the plane. He'd be the big guy, 6 ft. 7 and weighing more than 400 pounds. Because our schedule was tight, I was hoping he wasn't already in his work clothes. You'll understand why.

When Harris worked, he wore a leopard loin cloth, bare feet, bright painted stars and moons on his huge pot belly, and white face paint under his scary witch doctor mask. He also carried a spear and shield.

James Harris, who died this week at age 70 from COVID-19 complications, performed in wrestling rings around the world as Kamala the Ugandan Giant. Or Kamala the Ugandan Head Hunter. This day, he came to Houston to sign autographs at TriStar Sports memorabilia shows.

"Kamala was a huge draw to our shows in the '90s. His character was mysterious and intriguing. Fans lined up to get his autograph and pose for photos with him. He was one of our biggest draws," said Tristar senior vice president Bobby Mintz.

I checked Harris into the Crowne Plaza and waited in the lobby while he went upstairs to take off his shoes and socks, paint stars and moons on his belly … and become Kamala the uncivilized cannibal from the jungles of deepest Africa.

You couldn't get away with this stereotyped character today. But this was then, and Kamala was one of the hottest performers in the wrestling world.

You should have seen the looks on people's faces when the elevator door opened, and out came Kamala, in full ring regalia. We got into my car and made it to the George R. Brown in time for his autograph session. The line already was 100 wrestling fans deep. I sat next to Kamala for three hours, muttering grunts and nonsense sounds because, of course, Kamala did not speak English.

James Harris was born and died in Mississippi. He broke into pro wrestling in 1978 under the name Sugar Bear Harris. He also wrestled as Ugly Bear Harris, The Mississippi Mauler and Bad News Harris.

It was Jerry Lawler, owner of Memphis independent wrestling scene in the early '80s, who gave Harris his new gimmick and name Kamala. He would be billed as Kamala the Ugandan Giant, former bodyguard to the brutal dictator Idi Amin. Lawler picked the name Kamala after the capital of Uganda. Actually, the capital of Uganda is Kampala. It doesn't matter.

Kamala was money, as they say, he put butts in seats. He used a devastating karate chop to opponents' heads and pinned them, 1-2-3. Soon he was hired by Mid-South Wrestling, where the circuit included the Sam Houston Coliseum in Houston. In 1986, he became a main event wrestler for the WWE and headlined shows against Hulk Hogan coast-to-coast.

As we sat at the autograph show, one of my jobs was to assure young fans that Kamala was really a nice person, so don't be scared.

That night, I threw my one and only dinner party. I invited about 20 people to meet Kamala. I prepared a casual buffet, the main course was lasagna. I had two large trays, one with vegetable lasagna, one with sausage and ground beef.

The guests showed up, and Kamala posed for photos and signed autographs. He let my friends wear his witch doctor mask. He hoisted some of the guests and pretended he was body slamming them for their photos. He was the most gracious and gentle giant you could imagine. Until …

I was taking the lasagna trays out of the oven. I brought Kamala into the kitchen so he could eat first, and return to mingle with the guests. I asked him, which would you like, vegetable or meat lasagna? He said meat, and picked up the entire tray, sat at the kitchen table and ate the whole thing. I told the other guests, eat lots of garlic bread.

Kamala retired from wrestling full-time around 2000. He bought a truck and hauled gravel, asphalt and dirt from Mississippi across the southern U.S. If he knew a town had an independent wrestling show, he'd re-route his route so he could pick up extra money dusting off his Kamala persona for one night. That's how he made an appearance at the Texas All-Star Wrestling show in Humble in 2003.

Kamala fell into bad health with diabetes and high blood pressure. He had both legs amputated. Despite headlining wrestling shows around the world, Kamala never earned much money. In his later years, he made wood chairs near his home in Oxford, Mississippi. He also recorded an album, Kamala's Greatest Hits: Vol. 1, and wrote his autobiography, Kamala Speaks.

After the dinner party, which did not make Maxine Mesinger's society column in the Chronicle, something I'm still bitter about, I drove Kamala back to the Crowne Plaza. I told him, be in the lobby at 9 a.m., we'll get breakfast on our way to the airport. I asked him, what would you like for breakfast. Pancakes? Bacon and eggs? Fruit?

He said, and I'll never forget this, "When it comes to food, I isn't choicy."

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