The Dangers Of Overtraining And How To Avoid It
When it comes to succeeding with your health and fitness goals, you’re no stranger to the fact that it takes hard work.
You’ve read a wide variety of workouts and fitness tips online and in magazines and know that if you’re going to reach that end zone, you’re going to have to put in some serious time.
You take your goals seriously and at this point, motivation is at all-time high. You are willing to do whatever it takes to see success.
But, is this really a good thing?
In some cases, it actually isn’t. While at first glance it might seem like having sky-high motivation is the best way to breed success, more often than not, it can actually get you into trouble.
The Problem With Too Much Motivation
The big problem with being a little too motivated is that you may reach a point where you don’t think twice about hitting the gym.
Rain or shine, fatigued or recovered, injured or without, those sessions are getting in. If you can do them, you will do them – end of story.
In fact, some highly motivated people will actually see fatigue as a sign they need to train harder.
If they’re feeling tired during their workouts, they might think this is because they’re losing fitness and need to push more, not less.
They need to do more time in the gym, lift more weight, do more cardio and so forth.
The issue is that this is not what your body needs.
The biggest thing that you need to remember about any exercise program is that you actually get stronger while you are out of the gym.
When you’re in the gym, you’re breaking your body tissue down, essentially getting weaker in the process.
It’s when you rest and allow the body to recover that you begin growing, rebuilding that tissue so that it’s stronger than it was before.
Fatigue is often a sign that this process is taking place. Your body is tired, broken down, and needs some good old R&R.
If you don’t give it this R&R, you’re simply going to dig yourself deep into a hole. You hit the gym in a not recovered state and break your body down further. As a result, you get even weaker.
On and on it goes until you start losing muscle mass. Eventually, something called overtraining will set in.
And once this does, it will take much longer to bounce back and be able to train fully as you once did.
Overtraining is defined as placing too much stress on the body – to a point where the body simply is not recovering from this degree of stress.
In very severe cases, it impacts your entire body, including your endocrine system, so your hormones begin to shift and when this happens, you know you have a very long road to recovery ahead of you.
The best way to avoid this is to simply watch for the early warning signs and if you do spot them, know what to do next.
Recognising The Early Warning Signs
So what are these signs? How can you determine if you are in fact becoming overtrained?
One of the first signs is that you can perform less work than normal. If you see that your workout performance is going downhill and it’s been more than a few days like this, that’s a good sign that it’s time to back off.
Usually at this stage, if you simply take 3-4 days away from training entirely, focus on getting some good quality sleep and nutrition in, you can be back ready to train again when you return. At this point, the damage isn’t too severe.
But keep pushing it and that won’t be the story. Another good sign to watch for is your morning resting heart rate.
For this to work, you need to get into the habit of testing your morning heart rate on a regular basis. Then, once you know your normal baseline level, if you see that it increases at any given time, then that’s a sign your body is working harder than it should be, trying to repair damage from the workouts being done.
If one morning you wake up and see it significantly elevated, you might want to call it a rest day and keep out of the gym.
Some people will also show behavioral symptoms of overtraining as it starts to take over.
They may be more anxious or emotional, or on the other hand, may begin to withdraw, showing signs of depression.
Most lose interest in activities they used to enjoy. Instead of living their life like normal, they instead want to stay home and sleep on the couch.
Libido also starts dropping. If the body is tired and in need of rest, it’s in no place to create a new life (or at least practice).
You’ll also find that you are experiencing a number of nagging aches and pains that don’t seem to go away.
Your muscles may constantly be sore and you have a bad case of DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) that doesn’t seem to leave.
Finally, your immune system will also take a tumble. You might find that you start catching colds and flu’s far easier and when you do have them, it takes weeks to finally feel well again.
All of these are signs that your body isn’t functioning optimally and is unable to keep up with the high level of stress that’s being placed upon it.
Taking A Step Back
So where do you go from here? If you find yourself suffering from two or more of these symptoms and it’s been ongoing for more than a couple days, you need a training break.
First, take one week off all exercise. This will be hard, but realise it’s critical to being well again.
You can either take one week off now or you will be forced to take one – or more – weeks off later. Your choice.
Then, evaluate what’s going wrong. Are you doing too much volume? Too much intensity? Are you not sleeping enough? Is your life overly stressful?
Remember that it’s not just workout stress that contributes here but overall stress. If you are going through great financial or career strain, that could be the final push that sends you into overtraining with a workout you otherwise would normally tolerate.
Once you’ve identified what the problem is, then take steps to resolve it. Realize that until you do, you will keep repeating the same scenario over and over again. Don’t let yourself fall into that trap.
Make some smart changes so that you can avoid this into the future.
So there you have some of the most important signs to look out for. Overtraining is very real and for those it impacts, can be devastating.
Don’t let sky-high motivation make you train to the point where you aren’t listening to your body’s signals any longer.
Pay attention and you’ll see faster success towards the finish line. Realise that rest is just as important in a workout program as those workout sessions are.