Basic Definition of Overtraining: “Training too hard with not enough rest.”
A lot of people are so eager to tone or gain muscle that they forget that rest is just as important as the workout. Muscles lose strength and elasticity when fatigued, so without rest and time to heal, tearing and other major injury can occur.
How can you tell if you’re Overtraining?
There is no rule or a set guidelines of Exercise VS. Rest. Everyone has different needs and therefore reacts differently to exercise. However, there are a few “clues” that your body will give you to let you know you are overtraining.
- Lack of Muscle Gain: One of the most obvious clues that you are overtraining is if you stop improving or are unable to improve your muscle strength, mass or endurance even when working out regularly. A common mistake when this arises is to push yourself even harder. Your body may just not been getting enough rest. Try taking a week off. Yes! A whole week, and see what happens. You will probably notice newfound energy and strength when you come back to it.
- So Sore! The muscles you are targeting are still sore from your previous workout when you work them again. If this is the case, you may be exercising those muscles before they are ready.
- Lack of Energy: You don’t have enough energy to take you through your workout. You may also have a general lack of energy and/or feel tired throughout the day.
- Stabbing Pain: Stabbing pain in a muscle that becomes worse when the muscle is used suggests that the muscle is overworked and most likely strained or has another type of injury. Rest the muscle, elevate it, and apply ice. If several days of rest and icing do not lessen the pain, visit a doctor.
- Difficulty Sleeping: Overtraining can cause altered protein and hormone levels and elevated resting heart rate, which can lead to insomnia. This becomes a vicious circle because you obviously need sleep to properly rest and heal your body after a workout.
- Mood Swings: In extreme cases, overtraining can cause depression, anxiety, irritability and anxiousness.
Other symptoms are: loss of appetite, frequent illness, and loss or irregular menstrual cycles for women.
So you think you’re overtraining? What to do?
- First things first: Take time off (about a week). Give your body time to rest and catch up. After that, try reducing the intensity and/or frequency of your workouts. If you feel better (I.E. less sore, more energy, finally achieving successful gains in muscle size and strength) you can reasonably assume that you were overtraining in your old routine.
- Make sure you’re eating right. Without enough calories, water and the proper balance of protein, carbs and fats, your body will have trouble repairing muscle tissue after workouts. See our article: What to Eat Before and After a Workout
- Rotate Working Different Target Muscle Groups. A lot of people will workout their abs every day to try and get a 6-pack. Remember that muscle actually build during recovery time. Cycle different muscle groups day to day in order to give sufficient rest time.
Listen to your body. Be Realistic. If you are highly stressed or not getting enough sleep don’t push your body too hard. If you are already working in a physical demanding job (ex. farmer) there is no need to work out every day. Give yourself days off in between workouts. Your body will thank you by giving you the results you are after.