Over-training, the phrase itself can be deceiving, often because it is taken the wrong way where it is automatically assumed someone is training too much or that training a lot is bad. Which is not necessarily true. What it actually means when someone is assumed or diagnosed as so, that they are training too much without adequate time to recover and/or not enough fuel for the body (meaning caloric intake) to support it.
In both situations it is essentially meaning the person is adding too much stress on the body through training and lack of recovery.
How does it happen?
I have mentioned the effects of stress before with working out and in other areas, if you missed those posts you can find them here and here.
When we keep the body in a constant elevated stressed state, whether from hard workouts and pressures of long bouts of training or bad food, mental stress, lack of sleep etc it will cause harm to the body in the long run. When it comes to workouts and working out without adequate time to recover, you are asking for disaster after too long. Athlete or not recovery is key, and if not taken seriously any person can be affected. The key is catching it in the early stages and symptoms to prevent it from happening all together.
Just think about this for a second…. working out is a type of stress the body endures, and it is healthy. It stresses our muscles, our cardiovascular system, our ligaments, our mindset and all of that has positive effects BUT if taken too far without time for those things to relax and repair that is where the problems can start to occur. It is essentially just like any other stress the body endures, it can lead to our immune system to over react, our body to be in a heightened state all the time which taxes our adrenals, hormones and in turn metabolism.
So what should you do to make sure it doesn’t happen to you?
First make sure to incorporate rest and recovery to your workout program, regardless of how hard or not hard it may seem to be. This is the time when your muscles and body repair itself and get stronger, which we want. If we do not allow that to happen stress hormones get elevated and different things can occur.
This doesn’t mean you should always workout light, never do HIIT style training or lift weights or run long distances. It means you need to be sure after a hard workout or when you are first getting into working out you allow a day or two in between before attacking the same area again. A good rule of thumb is not training the same body parts for 48 hours to allow for muscle repair to happen and glycogen and hormones to level out again.
Typically if you are starting to feel burnt out you need to take a day or two off. If you cannot recover even after that then you may need a little more than you think. If you are continuously sore, yet keep pushing yourself without a day off you are asking for hormonal and metabolism problems after a while,
Some signs to watch out for:
Inability to sleep (get my free guide to helping with this here!)
Workouts that shouldn’t be challenging now are
Elevated HR throughout the day
Plateauing weight loss and fat loss wise
Muscle and joint pain beyond typical “soreness”
Mindset is constantly negative and you “snap” on others for no reason (meaning you are out of character)
Stress seems increased
Wake up in the middle of the night and cannot fall back asleep.
If you notice any of these occurring and you have been working out hard, or not eating enough (or even if you are unsure) it is better to be safe than sorry. Make sure you get enough sleep, being sleep deprived and working through intense training sessions can lead to this. Sleep is a major part of when your body repairs itself, if that doesn’t happen cortisol can stay elevated and eventually it leads to this.
This is NOT to tell you to not work out, again I have to reiterate that! This is to preach the importance of rest and recovery. With our society’s popularity of doing all the HIIT things and constant overdrive of our culture with lack of sleep, OTS seems to be occurring more and more. If you are putting in the effort to workout, then make sure you are putting in the effort for your body to repair and thank you for it,
The best approach is to follow a structured plan that includes rest in it. Work with someone if you need to to find out the best plan for you, or choose one of mine to help you.
I know how hard it is sometimes to slow down once you start seeing results, but as long as you get adequate rest you won’t have to worry about the bad consequences. Make sure you keep that in mind with all of your training.