Is Overtraining Really a Thing?

By Eric leader-Owner/Personal Trainer

 

You have a steel resolve. Maybe itís a new year or an upcoming event like a wedding or reunion, and you are ready to get into the best shape of your life. You start hitting the gym and hitting it hard. Maybe even working out twice a day. Then, you hear about the dreaded "overtraining." Are you kidding me? Youíve been a couch potato for months and now you may be on the verge of doing it too much. Is that really a thing? If you have a desk job and wear a fitness tracker, you may think you need all the movement you can get. Sitting at least 8 hours a day with a watch telling you to move your big butt more, can make us believe that overtraining can only happen to elite athletes, but everyone is vulnerable.

How much exercise do you need?

Daily exercise is a smart thing to do. We were designed to move and our modern lives have made us more sedentary. Aim to move your body at least 30 minutes a day and at least 3x a week. Engage in vigorous exercise for at least 20 minutes every training session. Then, add 2-3 resistance workouts per week to gain or maintain strength and endurance. For more details, read this post.

How do I know if Iím overtraining?

Overtraining happens when your body is under too much stress without sufficient recovery time. When we feel an excessive pressure to improve, or become addicted to the endorphins released from intense exercise, we become more susceptible to overtraining.

Overtraining can lead to injury and burn-out, so itís smart to recognize the symptoms and avoid it sooner than later so that all your hard work doesnít actually leave you weaker and disenchanted with getting in shape.

Signs and symptoms of overtraining are numerous. The most common are:

Feeling exhausted more so than normal

Aches and soreness that won't go away after a day or two

Decreased performance or focus

Depression, sadness or moodiness

Insomnia

Make sure you donít get overly exhausted because you are dehydrated, stressed, or lacking quality sleep. Give yourself 36 hours to recover from a workout that leaves your muscles sore. If you are feeling blue or suffering with insomnia, get your hormones checked or see a therapist. If you are still experiencing these symptoms, shift your attention from your workout to your recovery.

But I love to workout!

Working out is fantastic for so many reasons. Besides how it affects our bodies, it also gives us a high and a sense of accomplishment. But, recovery is crucial for fitness lovers in order to avoid injury and workout apathy.

What is recovery, exactly?

Recovery gives our bodies a chance to repair, rebuild and restore itself. Glycogen is used to fuel our workouts and is replenished after eating carbs. Torn muscles are rebuilt when we consume protein. But digestion takes time, so eating after a workout is not enough by itself. We must give our bodies a chance to absorb those essential nutrients.

What should I do instead?

Besides good nutrition, recovery is about hydrating, stretching, and sleeping. If you want to take your recovery to the next level, you can also soak in an Epsom salt bath, get a sports massage and eat a balanced diet.

Per every hour of exercise, the average person sweats between 3.5 and 6 eight-ounce glasses. Water is essential since proper hydration supports digestion and muscle growth. Stretching after your workout will not only increase flexibility and improve your posture but is crucial for preventing injury. When we sleep we produce 75% of all of our human growth hormone (HGH) and a quarter of that is done when we are in our deepest sleep state. Taking a bath and getting a massage may seem extravagant but they actually help sore muscles recover faster as well as feel great. Finally, good supplements are an easy way to help your body work more efficiently.

Implementing these post-workout activities will give you the vitality and energy you need to have more productive workouts which will enhance your results. The reward of being consistent with your self-care is a lifetime of optimal health. Once you learn to enjoy the time in between workouts, overtraining will be easy to avoid.