Wikipedia illustrates overtraining as, “…a physical, behavioral, and emotional condition that occurs when the volume and intensity of an individual’s exercise exceed their recovery capacity. They cease making progress, and can even begin to lose strength and fitness.”
In summary, this means you are essentially tearing your muscles down quicker than they can recover. Not only does the frequency and intensity of exercise affect your recovery rate, but daily stressors have an additional impact on how quickly your body can repair itself. If you have a demanding job, are a busy mother that’s on the go 24/7, routinely eat processed foods, or are not consuming enough total calories, you are impairing your ability to recover. The amount of sleep you get, your cortisol levels (stress hormone), and the quality of your food are all extremely important factors in preventing overtraining.
Overtraining symptoms vary from person to person, but some common signs include:
- Lack of progress on your workouts or decrease in strength
- A decrease in your motivation to workout
- Insomnia or poor sleep quality
- Extended muscle soreness
- Achey joints and muscles
- Increase in resting heart rate
- Change in appetite (decrease or increase)
- Suppressed immune system- frequent respiratory infections, virus, etc.
If you feel like you are experiencing some of these symptoms try doing the following:
- Reduce your total training volume
- Reduce your training intensity
- Eat more healthy fruits and vegetables
- Start taking a good quality multi-vitamin like my vitamin!
- Get outside as frequently as possible
- Schedule a week off from the gym every 6- 8 weeks or when stress levels are high
To proactively prevent overtraining I recommend doing the following:
- Varying the intensity of your workouts and changing your programs consistently. You should check out my 6-week program design to keep you on track
- Take 1-2 rest days per week, more if needed
- Perform activities to reduce stress such as walking, yoga, and meditation
- Eat a diet high in antioxidants to help repair cellular damage
- Eat a healthy post-workout meal consisting of protein and carbs to help facilitate muscle protein synthesis
- Try to get 7-8 hours of sleep each and every night
- Base your workout intensity, frequency, and duration off of your stress levels
To summarize, overtraining is creating more metabolic stress than your body can handle – and you simply cannot recover quick enough to support this demand. Overtraining isn’t just caused by your workouts, it’s caused by a cascade of events, such as your sleep, your stress levels, your diet, and your lifestyle(TOO MUCH CORTISOL). With my Personal Training and Wellness Coaching clients these are things I am constantly monitoring with them and if I notice signs of overtraining we address it immediately. I also prescribe a specific amount of exercise for each of my clients to accommodate their lifestyle and to help prevent this from happening to them.
I hope this insight can help you stay happy and healthy on your fitness journey, and as always… thanks for reading!