In fitness, more is not always better. Many of us think that if we work out twice as long, or twice as hard, we will get twice the results…or more! While trainers, coaches, and even our friends might think they're being helpful when they push us to keep going or push harder, there comes a time when it's no longer helpful and in fact, it can be harmful. Read on for 13 signs you may be overtraining and 8 ways to treat or even prevent it.
Signs and Symptoms:
1. Persistent heavy, stiff, and sore muscles (1-3 days after a new workout is normal…continuously sore muscles for a week or more is not)
2. Persistent fatigue, washed-out feeling
3. Decreased performance and ability to maintain the training regimen (you can't lift as much weight or workout as long as you did in weeks past)
4. Increased susceptiblity to infections, colds, and headaches
5. Nagging and somewhat chronic injuries
6. Sleep disturbances
7. Decreased mental concentration and restlessness
8. Increased irritability
10. Tachycardia and, in some cases, bradycardia (rapid or slow heart rate)
11. Loss of appetite and weight loss
12. Bowel movement changes
13. Absence of menstruation
What many of these symptoms have in common is they are signs that your body isn't functioning at its highest capacity. It is overburdened, is the case of overtraining, by trying to help your muscles recover and the resources just aren't available to make it happen to the extent necessary.
I actually experienced overtraining once a few years ago. I was doing a high intensity cardio program and feeling really good after the first round. The second round called for almost doubling the length of the workout time and by about 10 days in, I felt exhausted, irritable, and had lost my appetite. I took a few days off of exercise completely and then went back to round one and stuck with it for most of my workouts, slowly introducing the level 2 workouts once a week.
Here are 8 ways to treat or even prevent overtraining from occuring:
2. Follow the 10% rule; don't increase training volume and/or intensity by more than 10% at a time (here is the rule that I broke)
3. Follow a periodization format: intersperse periods of intense/high-volume training with extended periods of rest/recovery and/or cross-training.
4. Recovery/rest between intense workouts is critical because this is when muscle repair and growth occur; usually 24 to 72 hours depending on the intensity and volume of the session.
5. You shouldn't feel completely wiped out at the end of a hard workout; you should feel like you could do more. If not, you are doing too much.
6. Proper nutrition and hydration are extremely important; consulting a sports nutritionist may be helpful.
7. Quality sleep is ESSENTIAL. I can't stress this one enough. When you're sleeping is when your body rests,heals, and grows. DON'T SKIMP on sleep.
8. Variety in your training is healthy; don't do the same thing all the time
If you don't already keep a log or have some other way of tracking your workouts, I suggest you start now. This will allow you to pinpoint any potential issues before they become problems OR go back and determine what caused a problem if one occurs. Keep track of your workout duration, type, intensity, soreness/pain, resting heart rate, changes in body weight, hours of sleep, and water intake in addition to keeping a food log. Overtime you will learn what works…and what doesn't work…for your body.
Have you ever had symptoms of overtraining? Anything you could add to this post? Post a comment below and let me know.
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*Source: ACSM's Health and Fitness Journal, 2015, Vol 19, No 2, pages 4-5. Brady Roy, PhD, FACSM, FACHE