Many people aren’t just exercising more frequently, but more intensely than ever. Intense methods of training, like Crossfit and HIIT, are increasing in their appeal; in fact, many gym-goers train six, seven, or even eight times every week. Naturally, this begs the question: “What constitutes as overtraining?”
There aren’t any magic formulas to establish when you've reached a point of overtraining; personally, I've contracted the “overtraining flu” numerous times. It's a feeling similar to being hit by an 18-wheeler. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to avoid overtraining.
Understanding the Phenomenon of Overtraining
Overtraining is a chronic condition that takes place when you carry out more exercise than your body can withstand and recuperate from in time.
Imagine your body (and brain) as being like an electrical outlet that controls all of your everyday tasks. You can only plug in so many different appliances and devices before that outlet will short. What happens when an electric outlet shorts? You run out of power.
In many ways, your central nervous system works just like an electric outlet. The CNS includes the brain and spinal cord; it regulates muscular contraction by conducting nerve signals. If you’re chronically stressing your CNS, your neuromuscular capabilities will deteriorate and lose potential, which can result in typical overtraining symptoms.
Since many gym-goers train for different sports/events, your warning signs of overtraining might vary. Powerlifters may exhibit differing overtraining symptoms than endurance athletes, who may exhibit differing symptoms from a high school football player (and so on).
Nevertheless, there are a variety of general overtraining signs and symptoms, consisting primarily of:
- General fatigue
- Muscle and joint tightness
- Reduction in training efficiency
- A rise in exercise-related injuries
- Malaise (general feeling of discomfort)
- Elevated blood pressure
- Reduced strength
- Reduced endurance
- Reduced max heart rate
- Modification in menstrual patterns
- Loss of sex drive
As some are much easier to detect than others, here are the top five indications that you're overtraining.
Top 5 Signs You’re Overtraining
1. Lack of Drive
Lost all ambition and drive to train hard, or simply carry out any exercise at all? This is your brain informing your body that rest and recuperation is a necessity, because you have done more than your body/mind can handle.
Assuming you’re human, you’re going to have days where you simply don’t want to exercise. That’s completely normal. However, if you go weeks or months on end with no desire to hit the gym, it's time to reconsider your exercise frequency/intensity and take time off.
2. Feeling Notably Tender & Sore After a Hard Training Session
This is mainly based on nutrition, as some prominent bodybuilders suggest that overtraining is merely a case of under-eating. Even so, if you're consuming an adequate diet while training intensely but still feel extremely sore after your training sessions, there is a possibility overtraining is still occurring. Divergent from the normal wear and tear of training, overtraining soreness stays for days on end after exercise and may hinder the following workouts you perform.
As the majority of newbies frequently train too frequently for their body to handle too quick, overtraining sets in rapidly. Remember the first time you smashed your legs with a brutal squat session and 20 sets of leg presses? Chances are you struggled to sit down on the toilet the next day and possibly thought you were permanently injured.
3. You Get Agitated and Lose Concentration Easily
Being easily agitated and unable to concentrate is an overtraining symptom quite common in powerlifters and bodybuilders (or those who perform HIIT). This occurs when your peripheral nervous system is overstimulated, triggering hyperexcitability, uneasiness, and inability to concentrate.
Feeling uneasy and restless only makes matters worse since sleep is imperative for recuperating.
4. You Suffer Lethargy & Malaise Throughout The Day
Another impact of overtraining the nervous system is constant lethargy and malaise. This symptom frequently occurs with professional endurance athletes. It is postulated that the feelings of fatigue and unease stem from reduced testosterone and elevated cortisol levels, which can also weaken your immune system.
Even if you are physically capable of running 20 or more miles weekly does not imply that you need to. Regardless, both endurance and explosive athletes can benefit from shorter duration, higher intensity workouts.
5. Persistent Achiness in Your Joints and Tendons
Feeling a little achy or sore after a tough workout through delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is routine; however, if you’re experiencing chronic bouts of intense aches and soreness in your joints and tendons, your body is trying to tell you something. Don’t push the envelope. Listen to your body and back off the intense training for a short time.
Ways To Avoid Overtraining
1. Focus on Your Rest
Sleep is the most overlooked element of many gym-goers' fitness regimens, yet it’s so crucial for preventing overtraining and promoting recovery. If you’re only sleeping four or five hours per night, chances are your sleep habits are reducing your ability to recover properly.
2. Enhance Your Diet
Your diet plan plays a substantial part in your recovery from strenuous exercise. Your body requires quality fuel and empty calories will not cut it.
To avoid overtraining, you need to consume sufficient protein, fats, and carbohydrates, which is why restrictive fad diets and gimmicky nutrition plans aren’t very worthwhile in the long-term. If you’re struggling to consume adequate protein, consider adding a few scoops of Muscle Delight each day.
3. Change Your Training
Rest in between heavy lifting sessions as much as possible and forgo heavy training with full body compound movements more than two days in a row. To optimize your results and avoid exercise-related injury, be sure to advance through your training sessions gradually rather than making drastic leaps in training volume, or intensity, too quickly.
Depending on your objectives and training experience, it’s also advised to take a deload/active rest week where you considerably reduce training intensity and volume every 2-3 months.
Now that you're fit to distinguish the most typical warning signs of overtraining, you can train harder, smarter, and more efficiently!