Overtraining is something a lot of fitness fans fear…
From less-than-ideal workouts to feeling tired and not being able to sleep, overtraining is a nasty trap that can hold onto even the best athletes. And it’s easy to fall into this trap because it flows against the current of our natural instincts.
Think about it, when you work harder and more at your job, you’re going to grow meaning you’ll probably get a promotion or a raise, or if you’re lucky, both. When you spend more time with friends and family, you’re building much more fulfilling, stronger relationships which leads to a life of happiness. When you decide to throw the perfect curveball, you get better and better each time you practice.
So how can exercise, mostly weightlifting, be so different?
Well, it is. There’s a certain point when pushing yourself too far can be counter-productive. While many people know that this is possible, they know exactly know how easy it can be to over train themselves, or the signs and symptoms that come along with it.
And because of it, you see over trained people all the time. Walking around, at the gym, everywhere. You know exactly who it is – the guy that spends more than two hours focusing on that one, single muscle group, doing endless sets after sets. He’s overtraining and he doesn’t even know it. He’s wondering why his muscles aren’t getting any bigger or why he isn’t getting stronger. After all, he spends hours in the gym each night and he figures the more time he spends in the gym, the better.
But that isn’t how it goes and he’s ignoring the symptoms of overtraining. Your body can only take so much before it starts feeling overtrained.
Symptoms of Overtraining
Overtraining is basically when there’s a big imbalance between working out and the time you give yourself to recover. Working out too much is hard on your body because you aren’t getting enough rest. Because of this, a lot of not-so-great things can happen.
Overtraining symptoms can be pretty broad. It can include everything from being tired to feeling depressed and not giving it your best, even if you are getting enough sleep. But it isn’t always exactly this easy to see. There are a few more small signs that point straight to overtraining. Now if you only experience one of these symptoms it might not be overtraining.
The first symptom is that you can’t seem to finish a good workout. When you reach the point of being overtrained, you aren’t going to be able to lift the same weights that you have. You’re going to see a pretty big drop in your energy. You aren’t going to be able to do as many reps or sprints as you were once able to do. In general, you’re just going to find that you don’t have a ton of stamina. You won’t even have enough stamina to finish your usual work out.
So despite the fact that you’re at the gym like it’s your job, you’re going to continue to see yourself getting slower, and weaker and lazy. You’ll be stifling yawns at the gym and unlike your usual self, you aren’t going to be able to finish out another set.
Second on the list isn’t that pretty, and you aren’t going to like it. Whether you see it on the scale or in the mirror, you’re going to see you’re gaining weight. And it isn’t the good kind of weight, which is mostly muscle. Rather, it’s going to be fat.
Usually, when your hormones are where they need to be, getting rid of fat is only a matter of increasing the amount of energy over the calorie intact. But, when you fall into the trap of overtraining, this becomes a whole different story.
So why is that?
Well, your hormones are getting thrown all over the place. You’ll find your testosterone levels are going to crash, causing a rise in your cortisol levels, which then causes the breakdown of your muscle tissues, called catabolism. From here, both insulin resistance and fat deposition is going to rise.
What you’re going to get is tons of time at the gym, a major cutback in calories, but no results. In fact, quite the opposite… you’re going to be gaining weight.
Next, you’ll find that you’re training harder each week but you aren’t getting anywhere. There isn’t anyone who isn’t taking some type of drug that can do heavy lifting, fast sprinting and other intense workouts every single day of each week and still give themselves enough time to fully recover.
You should come up with a specific plan that works for you. For example, focus on weightlifting from Monday to Friday and then do cardio from Sunday to Wednesday. Saturday is your rest day, but you can change this up during the week.
Day 1 should be focused on weights. Then day 2, you can mix in some cardio while also doing weights. Day 3 should be cardio and cardio only. Day 4 and 5 can be dedicated for both weightlifting and cardio. Then day 6 should be weights only. By the time you reach day 7, you will have a complete rest day.
You can play with this schedule if you want, like if you want to start off with having two days off from weights. But, if you’re looking to speed up your metabolism, you don’t want to take 2 entire resting days in a row. While it’s important to give yourself time to recover, giving yourself too much time can have some negative effects too. It’s all about finding the perfect balance between giving yourself enough rest and still keeping your body going.
The fourth symptom of being overtrained, is a symptom a lot of people can’t see because it’s so common: not being able to sleep. When you’re feeling restless at night and having a hard time sleeping, overtraining yourself could be the reason behind it. If you’re dedicating a lot of your time doing aerobic exercises and you become over trained, your nervous system is going to be going full steam ahead at all times.
While it’s a tiring process, you aren’t able to shut your brain off. You’re going to feel restless and have a hard time focusing on anything. Obviously, this is going to affect your sleep schedule a lot. Your brain is still going and going while you’re trying to get some sleep. You won’t get enough rest that way.
Branching off of this, comes the feeling of being extremely tired, riddled with fatigue, and moving around sluggishly. If you’re spending your time weightlifting and you’re actually overtraining yourself, your parasympathetic nervous system starts becoming over stimulated. When this starts happening, you will see a big decrease in testosterone.
When this process starts to happen, there’s an increase in cortisol, which is going to crush your mental and physical energy. How can you work out if you don’t have any physical or mental energy? You don’t have the energy to get yourself moving and you can’t motivate yourself to do it.
Because of everything happening in your body and energy levels, you’re going to see your body holding onto fat with a tight grip and not wanting to let go. It’s a frustrating yet a very common process that happens.
Next up on the list is a symptom that isn’t as easy to ignore. You’ll find that you have random pains and aches in your bones, limbs or joints. People associate this with the hardcore workout session they’ve been doing nonstop. They figure that their bodies are getting sore from the exercises they’ve been doing, which means it’s working, so they keep it up.
In all actuality, they’re doing more and more damage.
But, if you are reaching the point of overtraining, this is going to be one of the first things you notice. First, your shoulders might have a dull ache. Next, your wrists will be bothering you. Then you’ll notice your knee hurts, and then your forearm. It’s sporadic pain that can pop up just about anywhere.
You might find this happening when you’ve been doing 8 to 10 weeks of continual working out. The exercises which would be of high intensity are overloading your body. But, you might find yourself getting these pains sooner than 8 weeks depending on the intensity of your exercise. When this happens, you want to take a week off in order to give your body the time it needs to recover. By the time you reach the end of this resting period, you’ll find that all these random aches and pains are gone.
But the pains and aches could also be coming from something else, poor form. It’s pretty easy to tell the difference between the two. If you’re just switching to heavy weights for the first time, or the first time for a while, you can expect to have these random feelings of pain and aches right away. Also, lingering pains and aches are generally associated with overtraining.
Overtraining In The Gym And Your Immune System
Next up on our list is another sign that you’re overtraining. Ask yourself this question: when was the last time you were sick?
There are a ton of different ways to really mess up your immune system. Little things like having a sudden increase in your sugar intake can do some serious damage to your immune system. Not getting enough sleep can also do it. Even not getting enough vitamin D or sunlight can screw up your immune system. Some people have found out that mental stress can take a huge toll on your immunity.
Let’s say you’re all good here, you’re keeping up a healthy diet, you’re getting enough vitamins, you’re sleeping enough and feeling calm… yet you’re still getting sick. And by sick, we don’t mean huge spouts of the flu. It can be little things like having unexplainable coughs, congestion, headaches or even just the sniffles. These all point to one area, overtraining.
You don’t need much time to bounce back for this. All you have to do is take a resting week (or two) and your immune system should come back pretty quick.
Perhaps one of the biggest things you might notice if you’re overtraining, is how you feel after a workout. Remember the good old days, when you would work out and feel awesome?
In fact, some fitness lovers feel like they have a “high” after they’re done with a work out.
After all, that post workout feeling is one of the greatest parts of working out. You get that sudden rush of endorphins, which instantly puts a calming feel over your body. It can last for hours, and even give you more motivation for your next workout.
But when that starts to change, it’s a red flag waving right in your face.
When you start getting cranky after you work out, you might be overtraining. Exercise should make you feel good about yourself and make you happy, so if you aren’t feeling good after then something isn’t right.
Like we said, you don’t need to panic.
As a simple rule, you can always take a week off from lifting weights. Instead, just do a couple of light cardio sessions… just make sure you take it easy.
As always, getting enough sleep is a critical part in preventing overtraining, so aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night. Plus, make sure you’re giving your body the proper nutrients it needs in order to succeed.
After that, listen to your body. Based off of how you’re feeling, you should be good to go in a matter of days.
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