Are you worried that you might be pushing yourself too far?
In this article we’re going to break down some common signs of overtraining so you can identify if you need to make a change.
There are some people out there that shrug off overtraining as a myth. Something that those who’re too soft to train hard use as an excuse.
And I can understand why.
In every other area of our life we are told that if we work harder and longer at something we will get better results.
If you spend more time with your family and friends you’ll usually have better relationships. If you want to learn a new skill, the more time and energy you devote to it the better you’ll get. If you work harder and stay back late at the office you’ll usually end up getting a promotion.
However in fitness that isn’t the case. Here’s a simple definition of training:
Training = Work + Rest
A lot of people neglect the rest side of things and only worry about the work half. The simple fact of the matter is that you don’t improve while you are training, you improve when you’re recovered and your body grows back stronger.
Overtraining simply comes down to an imbalance between your levels of work and recovery. If you’re body doesn’t have enough time to sufficiently recover from the work you’ve just done before you go again a number of things can go wrong.
If you’re training hard for 5 hours every week you probably aren’t at risk of overtraining. However if you are training one muscle group for 2 hours doing sets after sets you are probably overtraining without realising it.
Here are a list of some of the signs of overtraining.
If you are experiencing only one of the signs it may not mean you are overtraining but if you are experiencing multiple you may need to make a change.
Common Signs Of Overtraining
1. Unquenchable Thirst
If you’re overly thirsty, to the point that you can’t drink enough water during a period of increased training, there is a good chance that you are overtraining.
When you train too hard you can put your body in a catabolic state. Catabolism is the breakdown of protein to release energy.
When our body is in a “catabolic state”, it breaks down muscle tissue in order to release energy. Being in a catabolic state naturally causes dehydration.
2. Extended Muscle Soreness
Muscle soreness is normal a day or two after a workout. But if your muscles are still aching 72 hours after your workout it may be time to schedule a break.
Extended muscle soreness is a sign your muscles aren’t recovering properly, which will negatively effect your next sessions.
3. You Repeatedly Fail to Meet Your Previous Feats
If you are struggling to hit what you used to previously, there is a problem.
Assuming you’re not just jumping straight back into an exercise you haven’t trained in a while and are expecting to hit last years pr.
If you are failing to hold your ground at the same level, and are losing strength and endurance week after week there is a chance you are overtrained.
Be aware that just because you don’t hit a lift amount once or twice doesn’t necessarily mean you’re overtraining. A lot of factors like sleep, nutrition, stress can have a large effect on your lifts as well.
However if you are consistently going down you may need to reevaluate.
4. Altered Resting Heart Rate
Increased morning resting heart rate is an indicator of an overtrained state.
“An increase of more than five beats per minute is indicative of an overtrained state.” Mary Black Johnson, PhD
Altered resting heart rate is the result of an increased metabolic rate to meet the imposed demand of training.
A heart rate monitor is a good way to track your resting heart rate or you can do it the old fashioned way with two fingers and your neck before you get out of bed in the morning.
5. Restless Sleep / Loss of Concentration
If you are struggling to sleep even though you’re smashing yourself in the gym it could be a sign of overtraining.
What can happen is your sympathetic nervous system can go into overdrive causing hyper excitability, restlessness, and inability to focus.
Being unable to sleep compounds the problem as you’re body replenishes itself through sleep.
6. Feeling Sluggish All The Time
After a good workout you should feel great. Exercise elevates your mood and gives you a rush of endorphins. If you don’t get this feeling it could be a sign of overtraining.
Feeling sluggish all day is another effect of the sympathetic nervous system and is often experienced by endurance athletes. Decreased testosterone and increased cortisol levels can cause extreme fatigue and the feeling like you’ve come down with a cold.
Overtraining can cause an intensification of personality traits for guys who are prone to being aggressive, irritable, or depressed.
These emotions aren’t always a sign of overtraining as there are other factors that can contribute to your mood, but it is a good thing to be aware of.
8. Odd Aches and Pains in Bones, Joints and Limbs
Post workout soreness is normal, but if if you are experiencing intense and prolonged soreness in your joints and bones then you may have gone too far.
These can also be signs of poor form, but that’s easy enough to identify.
Also if you are new to lifting heavy, it is normal to get a few aches and pains.
9. You Get Sick More Than Normal
Getting sick can be caused by a range of things like diet, sleep patterns, mental stress and even lack of vitamin D.
If you can safely say that you are getting enough of the above than overtraining could be a cause.
It’s time to start listening to your body and make sure you’re not shrugging off the little sniffles, coughs and headaches. These little triggers could be a result of something wrong with your immune system caused by overtraining.
Overtraining can have some pretty nasty effects on your body. Most people won’t ever get to a stage where they are seriously overtrained.
If you feel like you could be slightly overtrained it’s pretty simple to fix. For most people all you need to do is take some time of from the gym or whatever activity caused you to feel overtrained like running, cycling etc.
Usually a week away from the activity will be enough to give your body enough time to fully recover.
Scheduling regular deload weeks in your training will make suer your body gets the recovery it needs.
However in extreme cases where parasympathetic overtraining occurs, you could have serious hormonal, neurological and mechanical imbalances.
Then you should seek the advice of a healthcare professional as this can take months to remedy as you have essentially broken your nervous system.
You would need to be significantly overtrained to do that kind of damage though.
Nobody wants to feel the effects of overtraining and their is no benefit in having to time away from working out. To make sure you don’t push yourself into the red zone and cause damage to your body follow these steps from Built Lean
- Get More Sleep
- Improve Nutrition
- Reduce Stress
- Adjust Your Training
- Add in Recovery Days
If you follow these steps and make sure you listen to your body you should be able to avoid overtraining pretty simply.
If you do feel yourself getting run down or experiencing some of the signs of overtraining mentioned in this article make sure you go back to the basics of getting enough sleep and proper diet.
After taking some time off you’ll know the effects of overtraining are gone by the way your body feels. After 3-5 days of recovery your body will feel recharged and ready to go again!
What are your experiences with overtraining? Have you felt any of these signs before? Let me know in the comments below.