Overtraining is a term most people into fitness and working out have heard about. But what is it, how can you tell if you have overtraining symptoms and what are the treatment options for overtraining?
What Is Overtraining?
Essentially overtraining is training at a rate higher than the body’s recovery rate – more is asked of the body than it can recuperate from. And it is during rest, not exercise, that the body gets stronger and develops improved abilities, therefore not giving it enough rest limits its development potential.
The first reaction many people have when they stop making progress is to think they have to work harder to achieve their goals. May that be training with heavier weights, doing more exercises or running longer or faster.
But when you are overtraining and do this, you are asking your already taken beyond its limits body to do even more. As it already didn’t have enough of rest before you stepped it up even further, you are making everything worse and achieve the exact opposite of what you want.
When you are into fitness and try to get better at your chosen sport, you have to take your body to its limits. But how can you tell if you aren’t actually going beyond the limit?
The signs and symptoms of overtraining are different for each and everyone, so it pays off to know your body very well and see how you feel. Some indicators to watch out for are:
- A sudden drop in performance
- Feeling tired, despite getting enough sleep
- General aches and pains
- Sleeplessness or problems sleeping
- Increased number of colds
- Decrease in training capacity / intensity
- Moodiness and irritability
- Loss of enthusiasm for the sport
- Decreased appetite
- Increased number of injuries
The occasional cold or headache doesn’t mean that you are overtraining, but if any of these remain with you for a longer time, then you should take it as a warning sign.
If you aren’t sure if you are overtraining or not, just a try a week without fitness and look how you feel at the end of it. Because the number one cure is rest, rest and rest again.
How long you need to rest depends on how severely you are into overtraining. If it is a slight case a week off may be enough. If it is a severe case, as in having gone on for months, then you may have to rest for weeks.
Take this time to find out what lead you into overtraining in the first place. Examine your training schedule and when it’s time to get started again, ease back into training by doing light workouts and only very gradually increase the difficulty level. It also pays off to keep track of your performance, so drops can easily be spotted.
Also don’t forget to keep an eye on your activities outside of sports: Do you give your body enough and the right kind of food to perform or does a stressful job contribute to your general stress level? Get the complete picture of your state of being.
Don’t Do It!
Finally, and most importantly, don’t get into overtraining in the first place! If you are a beginner and try workouts designed for seasoned athletes that is a sure ticket to overtraining, if you don’t injure yourself first. Judge your abilities realistically and keep in mind that it is always better to underperform than to overperform, because underperforming may slow your results, but it won’t keep you out of the fitness loop for weeks or even months.
For those of you that enjoy my accent, here is the above article summarized in a video:
Picture courtesy of Andy Newson.