Here’s the scenario: You start working out or, if you’re already active, you change your program. Your body responds fabulously, so you push yourself a little more, hoping to get more results more quickly. You respond for a while, but then you plateau. Worried, you continue to push yourself, adding more workout days, increasing intensity and killing it in the gym. But now, not only are you not responding, but you’re also seemingly going backward: You’re tired, crabby and even a little fatter! How is that possible?
Overtraining happens when the volume or intensity of your workout program exceeds your ability to heal and recover. Because your body is unable to keep up with you, it stalls out, impeding progress and even putting you at risk for injury.
The good thing is that overtraining is reversible and that the solution is simple: Cut back on your exercise schedule. Do fewer sets, take more rest days and shorten your overall workout time. Sounds counterintuitive, but it really works. Anything you can do to help yourself heal will be to your benefit.
Aside from program adjustments, there are several real-life solutions that can help you get back on track mentally as well as physically. Here are a few of the most noticeable signs of overtraining and their real-life solutions. Try them out and get your body back on track.
Sign: Persistent muscular soreness and fatigue
Your muscles never have a chance to recover if you never take days off. Continual fatigue and muscle breakdown will eventually lead to injury.
Solution: Take at least one to two days off completely from training each week. Listen to your body: If you’re exhausted and spent, you need a serious break. Do some stretching, easy yoga or even get a massage.
Sign: Continual sickness or lengthy illness that won’t go away
When you’re constantly training, your body expends all its energy repairing and rebuilding your muscles and has almost nothing left to fight infections and bacteria.
Solution: Take a multivitamin with a full spectrum of trace minerals, as well as a B-complex supplement and some vitamin C to boost your immune system. Eat colorful foods that are high in antioxidants, like berries, carrots, spinach and sweet potatoes, and drink plenty of water to keep hydrated.
When you exercise too much, your body sees this as a stressor, releasing hormones like cortisol that can cause insomnia as well as fat retention.
Solution: Hit the sack a little earlier than usual to give yourself time to decompress and relax. Read a book or have some decaf herbal tea. Also, power down your cellphone and computer and limit your TV time before bed to avoid excessive stimulation.
Sign: Depression and irritability
Exercise-induced endorphins are supposed to make you feel great, right? Unfortunately, if you’re overtrained, you’ll typically feel down and lethargic, which can lead to depression. Fatigue also can shorten your fuse, making you irritable and more likely to snap over small stuff.
Solution: Do something that makes you happy. Go outside and get some sunshine (wearing sunblock, of course), take your dog for a walk or meet up with the girls for coffee. And most of all, give yourself a break. Don’t beat yourself up mentally for your body’s failure to keep up with your goals. Treat it well and it will respond.