Pushing To The Limit: Overtraining Explained

What is Overtraining?

Have you ever felt so good after a training session that you can’t wait for your next workout? Or have you got goals you are pushing to reach? What about the mindset that if a bit of exercise is good for you, more must be better? While this may be true to some extent, too much of a good thing can be detrimental.

Overtraining is when the volume and intensity of your exercise exceeds your recovery capacity. It’s like a ‘tipping point’, where the exercises can do more harm than good. This is known as Overtraining Syndrome (OTS).

OTS can happen in two ways:

  1. Too much exercise without enough rest time.
  2. Not refuelling your body with enough nutrients.

It is vital to understand what overtraining is and what to look out for so that you can prevent this type of burnout.

What happens when you Overtrain?

OTS causes you to miss the body’s signals for rest and recovery, and you continue to train through pain, injury, or a decrease in performance. Even though you are training hard, your body will cease to make progress, and ultimately, you can even lose your strength and fitness. This is dangerous as training through the pain and fatigue can cause irreparable damage to your muscles.

OTS also affects your heart. OTS cases decreased heart rate variability, an elevated resting heart rate, and an inability to reach maximum pulse rate in anaerobic training. This can damage your heart, making you prone to heart failure, especially if you are not fuelling your body with enough calories and nutrients.

When you train, your body releases the hormone cortisol into your nervous system. When you overtrain, your cortisol levels can remain high. This can lead to fat storage as well as mood swings.


Reasons for Overtraining

There are plenty of reasons why people overtrain. Here are a few of the most common reasons people tend to overtrain:

  1. The training regime does not accommodate proper rest and nutrition. It is vital that when you are on a new training program, you check that you fuel yourself enough for the training as well as have rest periods or days.
  1. The person training ignores the signs of overreaching and continues to train. This is why it is essential to know the signs of overtraining, as continually overtraining can lead to severe injuries.
  1. The person has become addicted to training. Training causes the release of certain chemicals, such as dopamine and endorphins, in the nervous system. These chemicals create a sense of pleasure. You know you are addicted when you feel like you are obsessing over training and have withdrawal symptoms when you don’t train, which feels out of control.
  1. The person uses training to manage stress. Training becomes a way of changing your mood, and you get frustrated and angry at the thought of missing a session; this can lead to a training addiction.
  1. The person feels weak or has poor performance, so they continue to push themselves. This can break down the body further, leading to muscle damage.


Signs of Overtraining

Keep an eye out for these signs and symptoms of overtraining. Make sure to give yourself enough time to rest if you notice any of these signs:

  • Persistent muscle soreness.
  • Fatigue.
  • Lower immunity. This can be feeling a sore throat or fever blisters.
  • Elevated resting heart rate.
  • Muscle injuries.
  • Trouble concentrating.
  • Depression and Anxiety.
  • Decreased appetite.
  • Weight loss.
  • Insomnia. 


Prevent Overtraining

  1. The Best is to Rest

Schedule rest days into your training regime. Make sure you get 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep to allow time for your muscles to recover properly. If you feel overtrained, reduce or stop the exercise and allow yourself a few days of rest.

  1. Adjust your Diet

Are you getting in enough calories, protein, vitamins and minerals that your body needs for the level of training you are doing? Your calorie intake should cover your body’s training and muscle repair needs. 

  1. Keep an eye on your Mood

If you notice anger, fatigue, and irritability, you may be overtraining, which is your signal to stop. Dial back the intensity and balance your stress levels. You can do relaxing activities such as meditation or yoga to improve your mood and allow your body’s hormones to recover.

  1. Monitor your Heart Rate

Monitor changes to your heart rate over time. Monitor your heart rate at rest and specific training intensities. If your heart rate increases at rest or a given intensity, you may be at risk for overtraining syndrome. Athletes are encouraged to use a heart rate monitor while training to ensure they get the most out of their workout. 

  1. Less is More

Take a break from targeting a muscle group for 1 or 2 days, especially when doing resistance or weight training. Additionally, have active recovery days where you do light exercises, such as walking, to relieve muscle tightness.

To Sum Up

Recovering from overtraining is challenging and can take weeks or even months. The best cure is prevention. Notice any signs or symptoms of overtraining and take the time to recover. While training towards a goal and seeing results is rewarding, allow yourself the time to listen to your body and the time to rest.

Overtraining is detrimental to your overall health. Recovery is just as important as training and should be part of your training regimen.

Remember: Train hard, recover, and come back stronger than ever!

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