Some of us are not only training more, but harder than ever. Extreme modes of exercise such as HIIT and Crossfit are gaining in popularity with some people training five, six, or even seven days a week. But how much is too much?
Although there is no magical formula to determine when you’ve reached that point, personally I’ve hit the wall known as overtraining several times. It’s an experience that left me feeling like a bus had hit me. Luckily, there are steps you can take to prevent this from happening to you.
Overtraining Symptom #1: Lack of Motivation
Lost all drive and motivation to train, or really perform any physical activity? Your body is telling you that you need to rest and recover because you are doing too much.
We all have days when we don’t feel like training, heck. I have them all the time. But if you go days, or even weeks, without wanting anything to do with the gym, it’s time to listen to your body and take a rest.
Overtraining Symptom #2: You Feel Especially Sore Following a Big Workout
Highly dependent on nutrition, if you’re eating enough while training hard but still feel intense soreness after your workouts, there is a chance overtraining has set in. Different than the usual soreness from training, it will linger for a few extra days and might be a little more painful.
As most newbies often do too much too fast, overtraining is common in beginners Remember the first time you trained your arms and you couldn’t wash your hair for a week? Or how about the first time you did legs and dreaded walking up stairs for a week?
Overtraining Symptom #3: You Stop Seeing Results
Believe it or not, working out too much can actually cause you to lose muscle and gain fat! If it was as simple as energy balance (burning more than you consume) then the more you train the better. The problem is that hormones play a large role in the equation.
Overtraining causes your body to produce inadequate amounts of testosterone (bad for the ladies too) while producing higher levels of cortisol. The problem for both men and women is that your body increases both insulin resistance and fat deposition. We are training to get strong and lean, right?
Overtraining Symptom #4: You Become Restless and Lose Focus
Typically found in strength or power athletes or those who train with high intensity intervals, what happens is your sympathetic nervous system goes into overdrive, causing hyperexcitability, restlessness, and inability to focus.
This restlessness makes it even harder to recover as I can’t stress enough how important sleep is for recovery and consistent gains.
Overtraining Symptom #5: You Feel Sluggish All Day
Another effect of overtraining the sympathetic nervous system, this often happens with endurance athletes. Again, the result of decreased testosterone and increased cortisol levels, in some cases causes debilitating fatigue that feels like you’ve come down with a cold.
I typically recommend intense workouts of shorter duration due to the effects of long duration endurance training. Just because you are physically able to run 10 or more miles each week doesn’t mean that you have to.
Overtraining Symptom #6: Chronic Soreness in Your Joints, Bones and Limbs
Post workout soreness in the form of DOMS (delayed onset muscle fatigue) is normal, but if you experience intense and prolonged soreness, you may have done too much. Basically, if it feels like you got run over by a bus, you should cut back on your volume or intensity.
Overtraining Symptom #7: You’re Sick More Often
Very often caused by a combination of things such as lack of sleep, poor diet, not enough activity and mental stress, if you think you are on point with all of these things and still find yourself getting ill, it may be due to overtraining.
It’s really easy to ignore those early morning sniffles or a cough here and there, but make sure you listen to your body. Those little hints could be telling you that something is wrong with your immune system from your increased training volume.