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Overtraining Risks

Yes, there is such a thing as too much training. While we all know the value of training, and pushing yourself to achieve your fitness goals, even the best intended workout routines and regiments can be overdone. If you are not allowing your body the proper rest and nutrients it needs to recover and develop from all your efforts, you risk developing overtraining syndrome.

Overtraining syndrome is a condition that occurs when the body is pushed (through exercise) beyond its natural ability to recover. It can be easy to confuse tiredness with overtraining. If you are routinely working out, you can expect a certain amount of exhaustion with your program. Overtraining syndrome is when you are training past this point, and not enabling your body to recover. Before you think this is not an issue – there are some aspects you need to know about how overtraining can create risks to your health.

Overtraining Risks

1. Elevated Resting Heart Rate

A healthy resting heart range (RHR) is 60-100 beats per minute and the more you exercise, the lower your RHR will be. Highly trained athletes may have RHR ranges in the 40s.

However, in periods of overtraining, you might notice that your RHR is 10-15 beats per minute higher than usual. There are a host of issues that can come with an elevated resting heart rate – and if the condition is prolonged, you may find it takes longer to recover.

2. Insomnia

Killing yourself at the gym can actually make it harder to get to sleep. Sounds counterintuitive, but too much exercise can actually limit your ability to get the all important rest you need to recover from the same exercise. You end up creating a viscous circle if you do not recognize if this is happening to you.

If you are going to bed tired but unable to get to sleep and this coincides with an increase or prolonged training frequency, you may be over training.

Take a few days away from the gym in order to recover and let your hormones and central nervous system restore their equilibrium.

3. Muscular Soreness

This is not post-workout muscle soreness; it’s normal have some level of soreness for a day or two after training.

However, if these aches last more than three days, it’s probably a sign that your body has not adequately been able to recover and you need to consider taking a break in training. Another sign to watch for is if this soreness is in areas you have not trained – or just all over. This too is a sign you are not resting sufficiently after training.

4. Poor Performance

A drop in your performance is one of the key signs of overtraining. You have a goal, and you train hard to reach it – but you can unwind all that work if you do not allow your body to rest. Strength, power, speed, and stamina will all be affected if your body cannot rest. You may find that increasing your strength, losing or gaining weight, or your other fitness goals’ progress slows down or plateaus. If you find that your workouts are just getting worse, and you have other symptoms, consider time off. It might be only a few days, it might be a week. Your body is telling you it needs rest, and if you want to keep your fitness gains, you would be wise to listen.

Signs of Overtraining

These are in some ways similar to the risks, but more importantly also signs that you might be overtraining. Watch for them, and you can avoid even getting to the risks!

1.Excessive Fatigue

Fatigue will accumulate in a body that never has a chance to fully recover from previous workouts. Moreover, sustained energy expenditure leads to something called “low energy availability,” which means that the body is consistently pulling from its own energy stores (carbs, protein, fat). This can be the result of too much training or too little fueling.

2.Loss of Appetite

A hormone imbalance can also affect hunger and satiety mechanisms. More training should stimulate more appetite, but the physiological exhaustion of overtraining syndrome can actually lead to appetite suppression.

3.Metabolic Imbalances

Long-term low energy availability may lead to nutrient deficiencies, such as iron deficiency anemia, which have the potential to harm both health and performance. Medical complications can also involve the cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, endocrine, nervous or reproductive systems (e.g., menstrual cycle disturbances in women).

4.Increased Perceived Effort During Workouts

Not only can overtraining decrease performance, it can also make seemingly effortless workouts feel unusually difficult. A clear sign of this is an abnormally elevated heart rate during exercise or throughout the day. If you are experiencing overtraining syndrome, you may find that it takes longer for your heart rate to return to normal after a workout.

5. Insomnia or Restless Sleep

Sleep provides the body time to rest and repair itself. But overproduction of stress hormones caused by overtraining may not allow you to wind down or completely relax, making sleep much less effective (which compounds chronic fatigue and moodiness).

Self-Diagnosis

There are several ways you can objectively measure some signs of overtraining. A common and easy method is to record your heart rates over time. Track your RHR. If your RHR increases and you experience other symptoms, you may heading into overtraining syndrome.

Treatment

If you suspect you are overtraining, start with the following:

  • Reduce or stop the exercise and allow yourself a few days of rest.
  • Drink plenty of fluids and alter your diet if necessary.
  • Get a massage that can help relax you mentally and physically.
  • Try cross training as it often helps athletes who are overworking certain muscles or suffering from mental fatigue.

Final Thoughts

If you are following a proper training plan, then rest, recovery, and good nutrition should already part of your routine. Remember, there is no need for high intensity or exhausting training all the time. If you look into any professional athlete’s training program, you will find they all incorporate off days and rest – and you should follow their example. You can cause more damage, and slow your results by neglecting the rest your body will need to accommodate your training.

-Train Hard…and Train Smart!

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