The Risks & Signs Of Overtraining
If you've committed to achieving your fitness goals, you may have decided to go all in. You're determined to meet and surpass your goals, and nothing is going to get in your way. Yet, you need to ensure a balanced approach in order to avoid a phenomenon known as overtraining.
If you’re a serious gym-goer or are training for an upcoming sports game or athletic event, it’s essential to be aware of overtraining your body. But what exactly is overtraining? How do I know if I'm overtraining? What can I do to avoid it? This blog will delve deeper into overtraining, the risks, effects, and how to recover.
What is overtraining?
As tempting as it may be to smash those weights every day, remember, more is not necessarily better. While you certainly need to stress those muscles to build the perfect physique, your body may begin to suffer if you don't take time to rest and recover. This is what is known as overtraining, and it can cause some severe damage that can take weeks, months and even years to recover from.
What are the signs of overtraining?
While every body is unique and will respond differently to being overused and overtrained, these are some of the common signs:
- Muscles feeling unusually sore after your workout,
- Being unable to complete your usual number of reps or sets,
- Your muscles feel particularly heavy, even at low intensity,
- You feel an urge to cut training sessions short.
In addition, you may notice some of these worrying symptoms:
- Interrupted sleep patterns
- Anxiety or depression
- General fatigue
In this case, you may not be able to lift any weights, practice with your sports team or even take part in fitness sessions for weeks at a time — all in all, a terrible situation and something that you should do your best to avoid.
Looking at the big picture
To avoid this scenario, you need to recognise the danger and understand the difference between hard work and overdoing it. To begin with, have a look at the rest of your life to determine if other stressors are impacting you.
- Do you have a demanding job with high levels of stress daily?
- Are you recovering from an illness?
- Have you made significant modifications to your diet?
If you can answer yes to any of these questions, then you certainly need to be careful not to overdo it when exercising. An accumulation of stress outside and inside the gym can trigger a long-term deterioration in your physical performance.
Spotting the signs of overtraining before you do damage
In order to prevent long-term or permanent damage caused by overtraining, the trick is to know your boundaries and physical limits. If you’re wondering how to tell if you’re overtraining, the first thing to know is that awareness is everything.
Some people decide that they will push through and continue, even if they have been working hard and pushing themselves for days or weeks in a row. Some people can see that they have lost strength or endurance, but they simply continue. In this case, you risk real damage from the effects of overtraining, and this could lead to a sustained drop in performance.
Eventually, you will be forced to take time off and need weeks to recover, rather than days. Indeed, it can be difficult to tell whether you're pushing yourself too far or whether you've encountered the signs of overtraining. But it’s essential to address this quickly. You may not be able to take a short break and bounce back strongly if you've been overtraining.
Here are some crucial points to keep an eye on when looking for signs of overtraining:
- Remember, what goes on outside the gym is equally as important as what goes on inside. Multiple factors come into this picture, including work or personal stress factors, poor diet and interpersonal relationships. All of these factors can affect you both mentally and physically, and you should be on guard for signs of overtraining if you feel you have a lot going on in your life.
- Be on the lookout for signs of exhaustion, including restlessness, low motivation, anxiety or poor sleep. Look at your fitness tracker for any swings in your heart rate variability and check your general heart rate readings, especially first thing in the morning. If your heart rate is elevated when you wake up, this is not a good sign.
- You may be running yourself down and find that your immune system cannot fight off minor infections. You may feel as if you have a constant cold or sore throat or are generally under the weather due to the effects of overtraining.
If you have some or all of those symptoms, don't be tempted to compensate. Eating more healthy food or spending even longer in the gym to boost your metabolism and try to clear your system won’t work. This will simply add to the problem, and you'll take even longer to recover from your overtraining than you would have otherwise.
Dealing with the signs of overtraining
Here are some tips to help you limit the risk of causing long-term damage from overtraining:
- If you feel ill, rest. Don't fight your way through it.
- If you have external stressors in your life, do your best to overcome them. If your stress level is exceptionally high, refrain from upping the intensity in the gym. Take a break for a while until things simmer down.
- If you need to make significant changes to your diet, be careful in the gym. You may not have the same energy during the transition, so give yourself some breathing room.
- Always ensure you have the proper intake of protein, carbohydrates and fats in your diet so your muscles can recover and deal with your training sessions. Having the right macronutrients will also help with your energy levels.
- Take some time off and focus on self-care. Perhaps you’ve been neglecting your hobbies and interests outside of the gym. Spend this downtime with your friends and family and prepare yourself mentally and physically for when you make your comeback.
Now that you’re aware of the signs and what to do if you are overtraining, you’ll be more prepared and equipped to deal with this occurrence. It’s also helpful to take a break week during your training block to avoid burnout and overtraining.