Overtraining can throw you out of your rhythm and is experienced by all, but there are ways to fight back.
When we are feeling good, all we want to do is continue training at that high level. When we start getting weak and lethargic, we often question why. We seem more fit and can lift more weight, but all of a sudden we feel weak and our training seems to turn against us. Overtraining is a real thing and can happen to everyone, but there are ways to spot it and avoid making negative progress, especially with your heart rate, training, and recovery to avoid unwanted stress.
This occurs when we do not allow ourselves enough recovery time in between training sessions (1). While people preach about how exercise is so beneficial for your health, those of us who work out often and at high intensity, can actually be harmed by the heavy load of stress and strain we put on our bodies. Too much of anything can be harmful for our bodies and that includes exercise. While we may not want to admit it to ourselves, sometimes we tend to push our bodies to the limit, and then some with our training and stress.
While many factors can contribute to overtraining, there are two main causes, which are actually quite simple. Too much exercise without enough recovery is a big reason why this occurs (2). To push your body to the limit requires just as much recovery time to heal strained muscles and recharge those energy levels to safely and effectively hit the next day just as hard. Not getting enough fuel by shorting ourselves of much needed vitamins and nutrients, or straight calories for that matter, can lead to overtraining as a result of your body taking from much needed energy stores to power a session. Once those are depleted, your body looks elsewhere and often times places you do not want taken from during your training for athletes.
Noticing the signs and symptoms of overdoing it is important to stopping the trend of repeated overtraining. Taking note on how to avoid overtraining is also key in developing a solid workout routine to ensure you never over train to stay on top of your game and avoid those negative symptoms. While no day is perfect, we can do our best to stay sharp when it comes to our health and our training for athletes through exercise.
Signs Of Overtraining
High Heart Rate
A high resting can be one of the signs and symptoms of overtraining and is not great for your overall health so listen to your body. A higher resting heart rate means the heart is working itself to hard while not efficiently pumping blood. This leads to many parts of your body starving for solid blood supply, and with your heart being more than important to your overall health, it is not worth risking the quality of this vital organ so listen to your body and watch your training load to not overrun your nervous system, especially with endurance athletes through tough exercise.
That excessively drained feeling during or after a workout is fatigue and can happen when you aren’t fully recovered, so rest and recovery is vital to include in your training program to avoid chronic fatigue. While we all feel tired after a workout, fatigue is that extra level of sluggishness you just can’t seem to shake. Without proper fuel, your body resorts to all other options to find energy leaving you with a tired feeling even before you begin your exercise which can affect your mood (3).
Decreased Appetite & Weight Loss
This can lead to hormonal imbalances which has significant effects on how hungry or full you feel. While increased training should in effect increase your appetite, the physiological tired feeling experienced can lead to suppression and ultimately weight loss without proper care and sports medicine would advise against that with exercise.
Increased Efforts In Workouts
Some of those exercises you used to do effortlessly may now seem twice as difficult. Your perceived effort may make you think you are training harder than you actually are and an increased resting heart rate plays a role in this as well.
We all know sleep is vital to not only power us through a workout, but also function in everyday life. Overdoing it has a serious effect on your stress hormones which do not allow you to fully relax making sleep incredibly difficult (4). During sleep, your body finds time to rest and repair itself and without proper sleep, you won’t fully recover or rest to your full potential and sports medicine strictly encourages rest with enough time to recover so your immune system and mental health stay high, and quality sleep is assured through complete rest.
Tips To Avoid It
It is important to give your body adequate rest time in between training sessions, in particular more difficult ones. If the amount of training starts to exceed the rest time, you run the risk of training too hard. If you need to take a break from training to give your body the proper rest (5), then do it because it will only benefit you in the long run as you decrease your load to see increases in those gains.
If you are really not fond of totally taking time off, then consider reducing the volume of your training. This way you stay moving without the added strain that caused the this in the first place. This is a great time to strengthen your mind-muscle connection so when you are back in the gym and ready to work hard again, you will have the skills to do so to maximize your gains. Less soreness increases your chance at a faster recovery.
Be kind to your body and stretch. Use a foam roller or research good stretches to target certain muscles or areas that may be particularly sore. If a massage seems appropriate, schedule an appointment and give your body that needed TLC to even take a second of your day to come back to normal.
Arguably the most important tip to avoid overtraining is to give your body the proper fuel to work hard and function every day, as well as aid in recovery (6). Make sure you get the proper nutrients in your diet to provide you ample fuel for those grueling workouts. Protein, carbs, and fats can all benefit your growth and if you choose to diet, make sure you research the best way to do so to avoid overtraining and keep seeing growth at a high intensity with great response so you see results and bigger muscles in the gym.
Overtraining can be tough on all of us. That sluggish slump mixed with low confidence and poor attitude can hurt our progress in the gym and strain relationships in everyday life. It is important to notice the signs as fast as you can to avoid falling deeper into a hole. That tired feeling, increased effort, and poor sleep are just a few things to watch out for to spot when your getting close to over-trained. When it strikes, focus on rest and a healthy diet and don’t be afraid to take a break. Giving your body time to recharge will pay off way more in the end than fighting through it. Overtraining happens, but it doesn’t have to totally stunt all of your hard work and leave you with the need to feel content to find that long lasting result to keep you working hard without an excessive period of fatigue and psychological despair.
*Images courtesy of Envato
- Fry, Rod W.; Morton, Alan R.; Keast, David (2012). “Overtraining in Athletes”. (source)
- Eichner, E. R. (2008). “Overtraining: Consequences and prevention”. (source)
- Gleeson, Michael (2002). “Biochemical and Immunological Markers of Over-Training”. (source)
- MacKinnon, Laurel T. (2000). “Overtraining effects on immunity and performance in athletes”. (source)
- Roy, Brad A. (2015). “Overreaching/Overtraining”. (source)
- Alexandrova, Albena; Petrov, Lubomir; Zaekov, Nikolay; Bozhkov, Borislav; Zsheliaskova-Koynova, Zshivka (2017). “Nutritional status in short-term overtraining boxers”. (source)