Be Aware Of These Overtraining Symptoms To Ensure Yourself Continued Progression

It is important to recognize the following overtraining symptoms and to know how to avoid them. In order to make gains and to continue improving you’ve got to put your body under a certain amount of stress. When you lift weights or do a cardio workout you are stressing your body.

If you do this correctly and in the right amount your body will come back stronger. If done incorrectly or too excessively then your body will not be able to recover.

Overtraining Symptoms

Since there is a lot discussion on this site about different workouts and different strategies to get lean and muscular, you should realize that pushing yourself too much is a bad thing.

For those of us who feel that if a little is good then a lot must be better, pay attention. If you workout too much you will actually start regressing. If you’re trying to lose weight you could start to gain weight. If you’re trying to get stronger you could weaker.

In this article I’d like to briefly discuss the following questions. What is overtraining? What are the symptoms of overtraining? How can you avoid overtraining?

What Is Overtraining?

A definition of overtraining that I like is from Curtain University:

Overtraining, also described as chronic fatigue, burnout and staleness has been defined as an imbalance between training/competition, versus recovery. Alternatively stated, it is too much training or competition combined with tool little time for regeneration.

What is interesting about overtraining is that you can have two athletes side by side, performing the same exact workouts and one could end up overtraining while the other doesn’t. Not all of us are the same.

Yes, the signs of overtraining are the same (in general) but each of us have a certain level that our bodies can perform at on a regular basis. That level is different for everyone.

The Two Types Of Overtraining

Not all cases of overtraining are the same. The effects of true “overtraining” can last for months. These side effects can vary depending upon how far overboard you’ve gone and to what extremes you’ve been pushing your body.

The two main classifications to training too much are:

  1. Acute (over-reaching)
  2. Chronic (overtraining)

The overtraining symptoms for those who suffer from chronic overtraining are the more severe and long lasting. The good news is that it is somewhat uncommon for individuals to suffer from chronic overtraining. On average, 10%-20% of athletes suffer from chronic overtraining. The bad news is that the numbers for those who suffer from acute overtraining are fairly high.

In a small and limited case study called Psychological and immunological correlates of acute overtraining 5 men where put to a test. They did two intense interval training sessions per day for a total of 10 days. After those 10 days they performed active recovery for 5 days. After comparing their performance levels from before and then after this study they found that the men were overtraining:

“These individuals became acutely overtrained as indicated by significant reductions in running performance from day 1 to day 11.”

Although this is a very limited study of only 5 men we can see just how quickly your body can can begin to display overtraining symptoms. In just 10 days of overdoing it their performance levels decreased significantly.

Most Common Overtraining Symptoms

To best serve our bodies and health we must be able to recognize any negative effects that our bodies are undergoing due to our workouts. In order to determine whether or not you’ve been overdoing it here are the common signs.

  • Weight loss (when not trying to lose weight)
  • Weight gain (in the form of fat, not muscle)
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased resting heart rate & blood pressure
  • Loss of strength
  • Loss of agility &/or speed
  • Slower recovery after workout
  • Loss of motivation
  • Increased irritability & depression
  • Increased occurrences of injuries
  • Insomnia

While these are some of the common overtraining symptoms, you shouldn’t assume that because you suffer from one of these that you have been overtraining.

Other factors could cause poor performance as well:

  • Not enough sleep
  • Use of alcohol & drugs
  • Excess of caffeine
  • Not relaxing enough
  • Poor diet
  • Constantly losing and gaining of weight
  • Being sick or having an infection

The list doesn’t stop there. Everything we do in our lives effects our health in some way. When working out and in just living our day to day lives we need to listen to our bodies. If you’ve been hitting the weights too hard for too long then your body is probably trying to tell you.

How To Avoid Overtraining

Listening to your body is the number one way to avoid this. Overtraining symptoms are not pretty. It’s understandable that you have goals and that you want to push yourself to reach those goals … that’s a good thing. What is unhealthy though is to throw balance out the window.

Here are some of the common mistakes that lead to overtraining:

  • Training everyday
  • Training one muscle group too often
  • Too many sets/reps per muscle group
  • Not sleeping
  • Not eating healthy and balanced

Even if your goal is to be incredibly ripped, you can’t go all out for too long. When you set goals for yourself such as getting to 4-5% body fat or gaining 5-10 pounds of muscle, you need to realize that this takes time. Yes, you do need to work hard to achieve these goals but you need to be smart about it.

You will not get there overnight … not even in a week or two.

If you train smart and avoid the setbacks that overtraining symptoms cause then you will eventually get to where you want to be. If you ignore your body and it’s clear signs of overtraining then it will actually take longer for you to acheive your goals.

References:

Raglin J, Barzdukas (1999). Overtraining in athletes: The challenge of prevention. ACSM. Health Fitness J. 3:27-31.