It is good to have goals if you want to achieve something, and this is also true in fitness. However, there are times when people get a little too focused on their fitness goals that they exert themselves too much when they train. This can lead to overtraining, a condition that is not uncommon in athletes and even non-athletes.

Some call it under-recovery, others call it burnout. Whatever it is called, overtraining is counterproductive in terms of achieving fitness goals. Keep reading to learn more about what overtraining is, its signs and symptoms, how you can avoid it, and how to recover from it.

What Is Overtraining?

Basically, overtraining is too much exercise and it has two types:

1. Overreaching

This is what happens first when you over train and it can be reversed relatively easily. Overreaching occurs when you do not have enough recovery time between intense workouts. You can feel unusual muscle soreness after training hard for several consecutive days.

2. Overtraining

Overtraining occurs when you continue to train even if you are already overreaching. Many people, especially athletes, think that they need to train harder when they feel weak or perform poorly so they keep pushing themselves. However, this only leads to the body breaking down further.

Recovery from overtraining is difficult and you may have to take time off for weeks or months. If you are someone who really wants to achieve their fitness goals, this can be challenging. This is why it is important to identify signs of overreaching early.

Signs of Overtraining

The signs and symptoms of overtraining can be exercise-, health- or lifestyle-related.

Exercise-related Symptoms

You know that you have over trained when you feel unusual muscle soreness which does not go away with continued training. Your leg muscles may also feel “heavy”, even when you do light exercise.

Training at a level that was previously manageable become more challenging and you notice plateaus or declines in your performance. Also, your training recovery is delayed and you have thoughts of skipping or quitting training sessions.

Health-related Symptoms

Overtraining is also manifested in various health-related symptoms and one is getting sick more often. For some individuals, their pulse rate and blood pressure tend to be higher than normal making them feel nervous or anxious.

As for the aspect of nutrition, appetite loss, weight reduction and irregularities in bowel movement are exhibited. Lastly, menstrual irregularities are experienced by females who go above and beyond normal training.

Lifestyle-related Symptoms

There may even be lifestyle-related symptoms when people over train. Some experience general fatigue that is prolonged, while others may find themselves unable to relax.

Having poor-quality sleep is also common. This can lead to an increased risk of depression, anger, tension or confusion. Things that used to be enjoyable are not enjoyable anymore, and there is decreased motivation, no energy, or moodiness.

How To Avoid Overtraining

There are several things that you can do to avoid overtraining. They are mainly related to exercise, stress reduction, and nutrition.

1. Regulated Exercise

When working out, be sure to listen to your body and tell your trainer how you are feeling. For optimal performance, balance between training and recovery time is essential. You are not weak just because you are taking adequate rest. Set aside one complete day for rest each week.

If you do a particular activity, hard training days should be alternated with easy ones. Do cross-training or “active rest”. When increasing your training load, make sure that it is gradual.

You can also try recording feelings of well-being on a training log and include how much exercise you are doing. Doing this will help you see if you are getting obsessed with training, feeling guilty when not doing vigorous exercise in a day, or exercising when in pain or injured. You can then discuss these feelings with someone.

2. Stress Reduction

Keep in mind that the ability to handle stress is different for everyone. If you are experiencing stress that exceeds your ability to manage it, your body will start to break down. Therefore, you should avoid going past your limit. Also, non-training-related stressors can affect your training but you can reduce their effects by rearranging your priorities.

If you are working through major emotional issues like those related to your family, body image, social life, school, job, finances, travel, a mental health professional can help you with it.

3. Proper Nutrition

In terms of nutrition, your calorie intake should match how much energy your body needs for training and also muscle repair. If you do not consume enough carbohydrates and protein, you may have muscle fatigue, reduced muscle glycogen stores, and poor muscle repair. Nutrient deficiencies can also make you more prone to infections, so make sure you get adequate amounts of the different nutrients.

Also, keep in mind that dehydration can cause muscle fatigue, so make sure you drink at least 8 glasses of beverages that are non-alcoholic and non-caffeinated every day. You should be able to pass plenty of urine that is light in colour.

Treatments For Overtraining

There are different treatments and home remedies which can promote healing.

1. Slowing Down

Do not underestimate what a good rest can do. Try to relax and stop doing activities.

2. Massage

Before you get a massage, make sure that you consult your doctor first. A professional massage can be targeted at the affected muscles. Go for a sports massage or deep-tissue massage to relieve muscle tension and prevent injuries. Doing self-massage with a muscle balm or essential oils can also help but you have to get advice from your doctor so you know what to do and not to do.

3. Hot and Cold Therapy

A hot bath, sauna, or heating pads can help soothe aching muscles while an ice pack or cold shower can help with swelling and pain.

How To Recover From Overtraining

So, what can you do if you get diagnosed with overtraining? Once you notice that you are experiencing the symptoms of overtraining, tell your trainer and doctor. You can work as a team in dealing with the condition.

The professionals will also tell you to do these things:

1. Rest

You may be told to reduce your training or temporarily stop it.

2. Gradually go back to training.

You should get help from your doctor and trainer in determining whether your body is ready or not to start training again. Renewed interest and being able to train hard without abnormal responses can be signs that you are ready to go back to full training.

Do not be concerned that you are starting low and going slow. The volume of your training may be decreased by 50 to 60%. An increase of around 10% each week should be safe. Any more and you run the risk of extending your recovery.

3. Nutrition

Take a look at your eating habits. You should make sure your body gets enough calories, vitamins, minerals and protein for high-intensity and high-quality training. Seek the help of a dietitian in planning how you can provide the energy and nutrients your body needs for healing.

It may be difficult but you have to follow the recommendations of your trainer and doctor because they can help you hit the gym or start exercising again sooner.

Conclusion

Being active is good for you but you have to remember that too much exercise is not good for your body. To a point, you can improve your performance by working out more. However, there is a limit to this and when you reach that limit, exercising more can do your body harm and you will not get the benefits of exercise.

As soon as you notice that you are experiencing signs of overtraining, it is best that you do not continue working out to avoid harming your body further. Always remember to listen to your body. Do not ignore the signs and seek professional help so you can get sound advice on the best thing to do to deal with overtraining.

Related Questions

1. Why is sleep important for recovery?

Sleep allows more blood to flow to your muscles. This means that more oxygen and nutrients reach your muscles, aiding in muscle repair and cell regeneration. Also, certain hormones are released when you are asleep, and these hormones stimulate muscle growth and repair.

2. What is the average recovery period for delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS)?

Typically, DOMS lasts from 3 to 5 days. Ranging from mild to severe, the pain is usually felt a day or two after the exercise. DOMS is different from pain that you might have during exercise, like the sudden, sharp pain you get with an injury like sprains or muscle strains.

3. What is active recovery?

Active recovery is a type of workout where you do low-intensity exercise after a strenuous workout. Yoga, walking, and swimming are a few examples of an active recovery workout.

Compared to resting completely, inactivity, or sitting, active recovery is typically considered more beneficial as it does not slow down blood flow, thereby aiding in muscle recovery and rebuilding after intense physical activity.

Emma Pyke
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