Your putting in hours at the gym each day, are seemingly crushing your workouts and training like a boss. But more and more, your workouts are becoming increasingly exhausting, you’re lacking motivation and don’t feel refreshed and energised when you step off the treadmill. If this sounds familiar then, chances are, you could be overtraining.
While pushing yourself during your training sessions is indeed important, many fitness fanatics fail to realise that sometimes less is actually more. Overtraining can be a common condition among professional athletes and the everyday gym junkie, and can manifest through a variety of symptoms, both physical and psychological.
If you feel like you might be pushing it a little too hard at the gym, read on to find out the most common symptoms of overtraining and what you can do to rectify it.
Prone to Injury
One of the biggest signs that you’re heading into the spiral of overtraining (or that you’re already there!), is if you find yourself constantly suffering from injury. This could simply be little aches and pains that don’t seem to be going away, or something even as serious as a stress fracture.
These kinds of injuries can occur due to too much pressure being placed on your muscles, bones and tendons. This can occur either through vigorous, plyometric and repetitive movements, such as running or High Intensity Interval Training, or by heavy weight-baring exercise as well.
Given that overtraining typically results in fatigue, you’re also more likely to be performing certain movements with poor form, and will therefore be at a higher risk of putting undue stress on certain areas of the body.
Increase in Thirst
Feeling incredibly thirsty all the time, no matter how much you drink, can be one of the ways in which your body responds to overtraining.
When you train excessively your body will go into a catabolic state, meaning that you’ll start to break down muscle tissue as a source of energy. While this is your body’s protective response that ensures all your vital organs and bodily functions continue working correctly, it’s also a process that causes dehydration.
To counter this, along with decreasing your training, ensure you’re drinking more than 2 litres of fluid each day and aim to get between 7 and 8 hours of sleep each night, as this will help the body recover.
Decrease in Training Performance
If you’re failing to feel that ‘post training buzz’, which so typically occurs after a good workout, or else feel completely drained and unable to perform the movements you could a few weeks ago, then chances are you’re overtraining.
One of the most obvious signs that you’re pushing yourself too hard is when you can’t perform the reps, number of sets or at the speed that you previously could. Sure, we all have off days, but we’re talking about consistently feeling too burnt out to even complete your normal workout a number of days in a row.
Overtraining from endurance exercise can not only result in a loss of endurance, but coordination as well. It will also likely effect you psychologically, seeing you beat yourself up for what you might see as a ‘regression’ in your training.
The very best way to counter this is to take a break. It may seem counter intuitive, but by resting your body and replenishing it correctly, you’ll be able to step back into that gym stronger than before.
Weakens Your Immune System
While exercise can typically strengthen your immunity against a whole host of diseases and illnesses, overtraining has the opposite effect. Due to increased muscle loss, tiredness and lack of sleep, you’ll likely find yourself experiencing a lot more colds and flues than usual.
If you find yourself feeling run down or experiencing illness more frequently than usual then this could be a sign that you need to take a week or so off form the gym. Instead, focus on resting and nourishing the body with good quality proteins, fats and carbohydrates and getting adequate rest.
While exercise in healthy proportions will give you incredible mental health benefits, overtraining can lead to the exact opposite, leaving you feeling depressed, anxious and on edge for no reason.
Excessive training will increase your adrenaline and cortisol levels, the hormones responsible for stress. While small increases of these hormones typically occur after every workout, long-term excessive training will see these levels failing to decrease a few hours after your workout. As a result, you’re likely to experience increased feeling of stress and anxiety.
You’re working out heaps, so you should be falling asleep straight away, right? Well, not necessarily. If you’re seriously overtraining then your nervous system and hormonal system have probably gone into overdrive, which can wreak havoc on your sleeping patterns.
If this is the case, while also cutting back on your training, try to improve your sleep hygiene. Create a consistent bedtime routine and really focus on getting quality sleep between 10pm and 2am, as this is the part of your sleeping cycle when physical restoration occurs.
If you’re experiencing any of the above then it’s probably time that you step back, assess your training program and ask yourself the following questions:
- Is your training consistent with your gaols? For example, if you’re not aiming to compete as a professional body builder, do you need to complete 8 heavy lifting sessions per week… Probably not.
- Has your training become too important to you? That is, does it eat into time you would otherwise dedicate to your family and friends?
- Do you feel unmotivated, fatigued or exhausted?
After doing this you should have a clearer idea of whether your training program is healthy, or whether it’s actually hindering your health and happiness. If this is the case, make sure you take at least a week off from your training and dedicate this time to rest and replenishing your body with wholesome, nourishing foods. The most exercise you should be undertaking is gentle walking, a little stretching and foam rolling. Remember, sometimes less really is more.