ARE YOU OVER-TRAINING?
In the enthusiasm of starting a new program or preparing for your big event, overtraining is
quite common. You want to train longer and harder so that you can improve, break your own
personal records, and be your best. Except without adequate rest and recovery, your tough
training regimen can backfire and can actually decrease your performance. Top conditioning requires a balance between overload and recovery. Too much overload and/or too little recovery can result in both physical and psychological symptoms. “Over-training Syndrome” is simply training beyond the body's ability to recover. The easiest way to detect if you are overtraining and need to back off a bit, is to notice if you have any or many of the following symptoms.
TIRED AND LACK ENERGY – This is when you feel drained, exhausted and have that
washed-out feeling. Your legs are zapped and you feel that you are dragging throughout
the day. In extreme cases you may feel like you have chronic fatigue syndrome.
SORENESS AND PAIN – Your muscles are sore and tender, even to the touch. You feel
general aches and pains way more often and can even experience pain in the joints.
INCREASED INJURIES – When your joints, tendons, and muscles are overworked they
don’t have the necessary recovery time. When you over-train your chances of injury
DECREASED PERFORMANCE – You notice a drop in your performance. You are not able
to train at the same levels of endurance or intensity that you were previously able to. It
also seems to take longer to recover from your training sessions.
REDUCED STRENGTH – Although your training has not drastically changed, you notice a
decrease in your muscle strength for no apparent reason. You may even experience
some reduction in your coordination.
CHANGES IN HEART RATE – This is probably the number one indicator of over-training.
However, to notice this, you need to keep track of your heart rate at consistent times
throughout the day. When you first get up in the morning is the best time to take your
RHR (Resting Heart Rate). In normal training, even with adding some intensity, you will
have the same RHR or even a slightly lower RHR as you continue to train. When you are
overtraining, your RHR will increase in the mornings. If you are taking your heart rate
during intervals, when you are overtraining, you will notice an increase in your heart
rate doing intervals at the same pace you were previously doing. It will also take longer
to lower your heart rate after your workouts.
LOSS OF APPETITE – Under normal conditions when you increase your training, you
increase your appetite. However, overtraining tends to suppress your appetite and you
do not crave the nutrition and supplementation that your body needs.
INSOMNIA – Ironically, overtraining often leads to insomnia. It’s a vicious cycle. When
you need sleep the most, you can’t get it! It is during our sleep cycles that we produce
the hormones that facilitate muscle building and recovery. When we can’t sleep our
bodies produces fewer recovery hormones and instead produces stress hormones like
cortisol. Cortisol causes more inflammation and pain in the muscles, joints, and body in
DECREASED IMMUNE SYSTEM – This can mean an escalation in having sore throats,
colds, and other flu-like illnesses. If you have any allergies, they are more prone to flare
up when you over-train. Minor cuts and bruises heal much slower during this time. You
are also more prone to bacterial infections.
APATHY – You start to feel very apathetic towards your training and even life in general.
You don’t care as much, you don’t try as hard as you used to, and you feel more prone
to give up when you are overtraining.
ALTERATION OF MOODS – You will feel quite an increase in negative feelings and a
decrease in the positive ones. Irritability, anger, moodiness, and depression can often
appear after only a few days of intensive overtraining.
DIFFICULTY IN CONCENTRATING – Overtraining causes a lack of mental clarity and
focus. You may find that you can’t concentrate or focus as well in your workouts or in
your daily tasks of life.
HOW TO OVERCOME OVER-TRAINING SYNDROME:
1. REST AND RECOVER – Take your training down a notch. Decrease the duration and / or
intensity until you feel back to normal. It is always good to take one day off from
training each week and to have a built in cycle of a recovery week in your training
2. MASSAGE – Vigorous exercise causes tiny tears in muscle fibers, leading to
inflammation. On its own, the body does work to repair the injured cells and massage
helps. Massage improves blood flow, takes the tightness out of our muscles while
reducing the inflammation that occurs during a hard workout.
Massage can be in the form of having a sports massage, foam rolling, or by using a
motorized type of massager. Massage stimulates our mitochondria, which convert
glucose into the energy essential for cell function and repair. Massage can suppress
inflammation and actually enhance cell recovery. (As if you needed an excuse for a
3. HYDRATION – Make sure you are drinking plenty of water during to recover from
overtraining. This is essential when you are increasing your endurance – especially
when your activity runs past 70 minutes. For longer training durations, be sure you are
drinking fluids with electrolytes such as sodium and potassium.
4. QUALITY NUTRITION – Eat something with both proteins and carbs 30-60 minutes after
your workout. This will help your body to repair, recover, and prevent catabolism.
Catabolism is when your body breaks down your precious muscle and uses it for fuel
rather than using stored carbs and fat for fuel. The longer you train the more important
this is. If you are training for longer than 70 minutes you will want to take in some form
of carbohydrate during your workout.
5. REDUCE YOUR STRESS – Stress contributes to overtraining syndrome. When you are
undergoing a stressful season in your life, your body feels it. Try to reduce the amount
of stress in your life. It could be by reducing your commitment load, finding ways of
relaxation such as meditation, or reducing your exposure to stressful environments. If
you are unable to reduce your stress in life at this time, take a temporary reduction in
6. CROSS-TRAINING – Change up your training by biking instead of running, swimming
instead of biking, or by doing TRX instead of heavy weights. This can be so refreshing to
your body! Cross-training enables you to incorporate other muscles and can give you a
mental boost by getting you out of a training rut. Doing low levels of exercise (active
recovery) and using cross-training can increase your recovery and your immunity.
Take notice if you have any of the symptoms of overtraining listed above. If you do, incorporate some of the recovery strategies in your training. Be strategic and listen to your body so that you can continue to train, improve, and have fun!