The dictionary states, "Overtraining is a common problem in weight training, but it can also be experienced by runners and other athletes. It occurs when the volume and intensity of the exercise exceeds an individual's recovery capacity. They cease making progress, and can even begin to lose strength and fitness."
Since New Years, Jennifer has found her fitness groove. She said her good-byes to her late night TV programs and processed food munching, and hello to a new life. In fact, Jennifer has done a complete lifestyle change choosing foods that are in their natural state or in the least amount of packaging possible; in other words, unprocessed.
Standing 5'5" and weighing 155 lbs, Jennifer has already lost 10 lbs. Her mind is focused on reaching her goal weight of 125 lb. To help her reach her goal, Jennifer is training two days on and one day off, and is in and out of the gym in about an hour. This training split is allowing plenty of time for her body to rest. Jennifer is feeling great!
Fast forward six months; Jennifer is not feeling so hot. We can pat her on the back for attaining her goal weight of 125 lbs, but can she? This past month people have complimented on how fit she is looking but commented that she also appeared tired. "Are you getting enough sleep? You haven't been yourself lately." Her friends are concerned and they have every right to be.
Jennifer's training program has increased to six days a week, with Sundays as her jogging only days. Each morning, she sets her alarm an hour early to make time for her 60-minute run before work. Once her work day is done, she returns to the gym for 60 min of weights and another 60 min of cardio.
Though she is tired and has little interest in spending time with friends, she is making time for her fitness. What fitness means to Jennifer today is much different then three months ago.
Jennifer is overtraining. Along with persistent fatigue and a loss of interest in her friends, she may be also experiencing these symptoms of overtraining.
- Persistent muscle soreness
- Elevated resting heart rate
- Increased susceptibility to infections
- Increased incidence of injuries
- Loss of motivation
- Decreased appetite
- Weight loss
Experiencing a loss of interest in what you once felt passion for is never fun. So, what causes overtraining?
Rest Is Key
To see improvement in one's strength and fitness they must rest. The rest period following hard training is a magical process which takes at least 36 hours to complete. By skimping on rest, complete regeneration cannot occur.
If the amount of training continues to exceed the rest period, however, the individual's performance will plateau and decline. If Jennifer continues to neglect the rest time her body needs, she will indeed get weaker and may experience injuries.
Other physical and psychological stressors can compound the rate at which a person may experience overtraining, such as:
Bodybuilders and other dieters who exercise intensely while limiting their food intake often find themselves overtraining.
Though you may be focused and feeling that you need to maintain the degree at which you are training, depending on your circumstance I urge you to consider applying one or more of the following solutions. Your gains will flourish, and your family and friends will be relieved and thankful!
Taking a break
Common Vitamin Deficiencies
Common Mineral Deficiencies
Taking a break from training to allow time for recovery. In knowing that you may be doing more harm than good at the gym, set aside today and tomorrow as a break. Some people allow one week away from fitness to revive their bodies and mind, and then when they return to training, they have more focus and are enjoying themselves again.
Reducing the volume
Reducing the volume and/or the intensity of the training. If you always do five sets for each exercise, why not do just two or three, and lower the weight and focus solely on form? Strengthen your mind and muscle connection by tuning into the exercise at hand.
Deep-tissue or sports massage of the affected muscles. A skillfully applied massage is the most effective therapy for releasing muscle tension and restoring balance to the musculo-skeletal system. Receiving regular massages may help athletes prevent injuries, which might otherwise be caused by overuse. A constant build-up of tension in the muscles from regular activity may lead to stresses on joints, ligaments, tendons, as well as the muscles themselves.
Self-massage of the affected muscles. Self-massage, with either with your hands or a system such as the Yamuna™ Body Rolling (BR) system featuring a specially designed 7" ball will help with pain relief, and can be targeted to hamstrings, calves, knees, quads, shoulder and back; any muscle or joint.
People who are stiff and inflexible and have, or are prone to, injury will benefit from BR as it elongates and massages muscles and opens and flexs the joints.
Temperature contrast therapy
Temperature contrast therapy. (Ice baths, hot & cold showers, etc). This uses the body's reaction to hot and cold stimuli. The nerves carry impulses felt at the skin deeper into the body, where they can stimulate the immune system, improve circulation and digestion, influence the production of stress hormones, encourage blood flow, and lessening pain sensitivity.
Proper Calorie Intake
Ensuring calorie intake matches (or possibly exceeds) caloric expenditure. When overtraining, the body may be depleted in various nutrients. To assist in the process of recovery, it's important to ensure that a diet high in carbohydrates, lean proteins and healthy fats such as omega 3 oils is met. Carbohydrates will provide the brain with fuel, the oils help relieve depression and proteins will rebuild overtrained muscles.
Addressing Vitamin Deficiences
Addressing vitamin deficiencies with nutritional supplements. It is essential to get vitamins from food, however when overtraining is a concern supplementation is beneficial. Supplements should be taken in addition to meals and with meals for their essential and proper absorption.
Splitting the training program so that different sets of muscles are worked on different days. Once you have rested enough for your body to recover from overtraining, be smart and plan your training split ahead of time.
This will help to prevent overtraining from occurring again. Allow at least 4 days between training a certain body part again, and always have at least one day of rest from training each week.
Training towards a goal can be very rewarding, and when seeing the results form, it's hard to believe that one may ever go back to their old habits.
Allow yourself to take a break from time to time and listen to your body. It's when we rest that the body has time to recover, rebuild, and come back stronger then before!