7 Subtle Signs Of Overtraining
Overtraining is a serious stuff.
Quite often, people get hooked up on exercising way too much, ignoring the body telling them to stop.
It’s great to see results, but more exercise doesn’t necessarily mean better and faster results.
Overtraining is not just an issue among elite athletes, it’s a very common thing in regular sport – enthusiasts, too.
Whether you go to the gym, do gymnastics, play football or run marathons, it doesn’t matter. Anyone, who exercises regularly has probably experienced the effect of overtraining.
Considering you looked up this post, I am assuming that you are worried this might be you.
Let’s see whether you can recognise any of these signs.
#1 BAD SLEEP
When we exercise, we expose our bodies to stress.
Most of the time, this form of stress is good, because it strengthens, challenges and toughens our bodies.
But stress hormones, mainly cortisol and epinephrine, still get released and too much of them is asking for restless sleep.
Stress hormones are essential, we need them to be able to deal with day-to-day situations and they warn us when we are in danger, but we also need periods of rest in order for these hormones to completely disappear from our system. Nobody wants to be stressed all the time.
If we don’t allow our body to rest, stress hormones are constantly floating around, causing a restless mind and inability to relax properly, which makes falling asleep nearly impossible.
Which brings me to a number one sign.
#2 MOODINESS OR IRRITABILITY
The same hormones responsible for stress management, are the ones responsible for our moods.
Ever had a long term issue? Deal with deadlines often? Tough relationship? Kids? Then you probably are very much aware of what long term exposure to stress can do to your mood.
Irritability, stroppiness and mood swings are all common examples of high stress hormone levels and if you cannot pinpoint a certain issue in your life that’s causing it, it’s possible it might be overtraining.
Irritability, in combination with bad sleep, can cause further problems in daily life, like bad concentration at work or school, lack of enthusiasm, decreased libido and even depression or anxiety.
#3 DECREASED PERFORMANCE
If you feel like you are working out more and more, harder and harder without any new results, it might be a sign of the fact that you simply need a break.
Decreased performance can show up differently, depending on the sport:
- Worse times in running, rowing, cycling etc.
- Decreased agility in sports (football, etc.)
- Inability to lift weights that you normally have no problem with
- Slower reaction time
When this happens, the individual usually hits a plateau, which is a term to describe the phase, when an athlete feels demotivated because of the lack of visible results or because the exercise is too boring and repetitive.
You definitely need a change if you are in this stage otherwise there’s a good chance that you will give up the sport altogether and associate it with bad experience.
#4 UNUSUAL FATIGUE, EVEN WEIGHT LOSS
Overtired body usually pulls energy from their own reserves rather than taking it from food, because stored nutrients are readily available and the body doesn’t need to go through the process of breaking it down properly. This would require even more energy for an already tired body.
This can result in weight loss and digestive tract problems, because food we eat does not get processed properly, which can lead to a sign number five.
Apart from digestive issues, we can also become more susceptible to common illnesses, such as cold and flu.
I know from my very own experience: While trying to juggle night shifts and training, I quite often failed to notice that I get a cold or a flu every other month, or so.
People used to tell me: “How come exercise is so good for you when you are sick all the time?”
I’ve realised I wasn’t representing a healthy lifestyle, but a very destroying one.
Yes, exercise and physical activity are both amazing, but if you do these things to the detriment of sleep and recovery, you will not be healthy, you will become more sick.
Do fewer workouts in a week, but make them count!
You can go to the gym seven times a week and the only result will be fatigue, illness and irritability because you are overtrained. Not to mention the fact that there will be no muscle growth, since your body is trying to survive all this, building muscle is a bit much at this point.
It’s proven that a short, BUT effective workout is a lot more beneficial than a long strenuous one that lacks strategy.
Yes, it’s a great feeling to smash a workout so you can’t move for the rest of the day and feel like you’ve earned it. But this shouldn’t become a habit and it brings me to number six.
#6 CONSTANT MUSCLE PAIN OR NAGGING INJURIES
As mentioned above, it’s great to smash the hell out of a workout, but if you feel like your muscles are whinging every time you move, or if you are having constant issues with joints or tendons, this might be a sign of a well needed rest.
We might not even be talking about a serious injury, it could just be a persisting unexplained knee pain, frequent muscle cramps or joint discomfort or tension.
Your body is letting you know that it doesn’t feel quite right and you should listen and let it rest.
#7 WORKOUT SEEMS HARDER THAN USUAL
If you set up your workout and find it harder than usual, it could just mean that it’s not your day today.
We’ve all been there, you have been looking forward for a leg day (I know, everyone’s favourite:)), you get in, you have your music, you are pumped and then you drop a plate on your foot, stumble over a step, never mind. You put the regular set of weights on a bar, only to find out that you can’t lift it.
We’ve all had these days and it happens occasionally, but if it’s often and you notice it every week, or every other workout, you should give yourself a break.
If you are a runner and suddenly notice your times and pace going down with no clear explanation (the weather is unusually hot or cold, smog in the air, etc.), give yourself a break.
Now, that doesn’t mean lounging on a sofa all day, but how about going on a walk with a friend or a partner?
How about signing up for a yoga, meditation or stretching class at your gym?
Try something different and make your recovery active.
Pushing through the workout or training session anyway can lead to injuries and, if your hobby is something like rock climbing, it can lead to an injury you would regret forever.
So, as you might have noticed, all these signs tie together very closely.
- Exercise is stress
- Too much stress leads to high levels of stress hormones
- High stress hormones levels cause sleep problems
- Sleep problems cause mood swings
- All of the above cause decreased performance, illness and injuries
These signs are important to keep an eye on and if you spot some of them, stop and think about it for a second.
Am I moody because I haven’t slept properly? Why didn’t I sleep well? Did I have one too many drinks or am I loaded at work? Or have I just spent last seven days at the gym?
Sure, you can just be stressed from work, or maybe you are at school and exams are coming up.
But if you are an active person, I’d like you to stop for a while and acknowledge that you might just need some rest.
Go out for a meal, walk, go visit a friend, catch up on your favourite TV show, sign up for a yoga or stretching class, go swimming or invite a friend for a spa day.
Do something that allows your body to recover. I’m sure you can think of something 🙂
And no, going out clubbing and drinking is not what I mean, this will switch your brain off temporarily, only to give you a headache the next day, and your mood will get even worse.
Let me know what are your typical signs of overtraining in the comments, I’d love to read your experience.