How to Tell if You are Overtraining & How to Prevent It

How to Tell if You are Overtraining & How to Prevent It

Last week we gave a brief description of overtraining, who is susceptible, how it occurs, and the mechanisms. Now we’d like to cover the mechanisms of overtraining, the signs and symptoms, the hidden factors of overtraining, what helps prevent it, and what you as an exerciser can take home from this post.

Keep in mind, these two blog posts are only a brief overview of this malady. There are many factors and a great deal of research on this topic that can’t be covered in two short parts. We’d also like to encourage you to seek proper advice from a skilled professional if trying to avoid overtraining or if you think you may be suffering from overtraining, as it is a serious condition that can set many exercisers back a great deal.

Symptoms of Overtraining

These symptoms may not always be apparent at the onset of overtraining but will manifest as overtraining progresses.

Physical:

  • Decreased performance
  • Decreased percentage body fat
  • Altered blood pressure
  • Increased muscle soreness
  • Soreness or fatigue does not disappear within 48 hours
  • Altered resting heart rate
  • Increased submaximal exercise heart rate (increased heart rate at an easier level of exercise)

Psychological:

  • Decreased vigor
  • Decreased motivation
  • Decreased confidence
  • Increased tension
  • Increased depression
  • Increased anger
  • Increased fatigue
  • Increased confusion
  • Increased anxiety
  • Increased irritability
  • Impaired concentration

The psychological symptoms usually occur before the physical symptoms and can be the beginning indicators of overtraining. This is not an exhaustive list of symptoms but a list that can be tested or observed by the average exerciser. Suffering from one symptom or a few does not necessarily mean overtraining is beginning or occurring. The best thing to do if you are unsure if you are overtraining or in danger of overtraining is to consult a fitness professional.

If an exerciser is suffering from a few of these symptoms, and do not wish to see a fitness professional (which is unwise) determine if it has been occurring for a length of time or monitor the symptoms and see if they continue, get worse, or disappear. If the symptoms have occurred for a while, get worse, or there are many symptoms, stop exercising immediately and consult a fitness or medical professional. With overtraining, time is of the essence. If you do not seek help to avoid overtraining, symptoms can get worse, overtraining syndrome can set in, or injury can occur and/or recovery will take longer.

WE CANNOT STRESS ENOUGH THE IMPORTANCE OF SEEKING HELP FROM A QUALIFIED PROFESSIONAL IN PREVENTING AND AIDING IN THE RECOVERY OF OVERTRAINING.

Hidden Factors of Overtraining

There are some hidden factors that some exercisers many not be aware of that play a hand in causing overtraining. These factors include but are not limited to:

  • Stress
  • Type of work
  • Length of work days
  • Amount of sleep
  • Nutrition

Many people do not realize that these hidden factors play a role in overtraining. Stress plays a role because a stressed person cannot recover effectively from work and exercise. Simply put, it also places the body and hormones in a negative state, creating an environment of muscle breakdown and damage rather than of promoting adaptation and growth.

Many exercisers overlook their work as a factor in overtraining. If the exerciser works a job where they are on their feet all day, are constantly moving, or if their job is physically taxing it can have a compounding effect on the body. Their body is already doing more work during the day, than say sitting at a desk typing, so adding exercise to the mix just adds to stresses on the body. If this is not taken into account, then the exerciser may end up doing more than the body can keep up with.

Length of work days also adds to the problem by increasing the amount of stress—mental or physical—that a person may be under. It may also have a negative effect on rest and sleep for the exerciser at the end of the day. A lack of a proper amount of sleep will not allow the body to fully recover from days and from workouts. This also begins to compound over time, leading to overtraining.

Finally, without enough food or the proper types of food, the body will not get enough energy and nutrients to recover, adapt, and rebuild after the stresses and breakdown applied to the body. Making sure all of these factors are considered and are handled correctly can make a huge difference in preventing overtraining.

Am I Overtraining?

Can you answer yes to some or all of these questions?

  1. Do you exhibit any of the physical symptoms?
  2. Do you notice an increase of negative temperament as discussed in the psychological symptoms?
  3. Do you seem to be getting injured on a frequent basis?
  4. Do you seem to have injuries that nag and do not seem to go away?
  5. Do you exercise hard seven days a week?
  6. Are all your workouts hard workouts?
  7. Do you have persistent soreness or fatigue?
  8. Do you strength train some of the same body parts 2 or more days in a row?

If you answered yes to some or all of these or have any other questions please ask and discuss it with a qualified fitness or medical professional.

What Prevents Overtraining?

  • Proper program that progresses the individual gradually and correctly
  • Proper amount of rest between workouts
  • Stress management
  • Proper amount of sleep at night
  • Proper diet

Many of these aspects are very easy to implement. But, they also require some planning. A qualified fitness professional can definitely help an exerciser at any level get on the right track.

The Million Dollar Section!

A great deal of information has been laid out in these posts on overtraining.  Lets break it down in to some meaningful gems.

  • First and foremost the most important thing any exerciser can do is get the advice and help of a qualified fitness professional.  

You may notice that we mention the three words “qualified fitness professional” quite a bit together. This is very important. There are many “professionals” out there that talk a good game or talk themselves up, but are not worth their salt so be discerning when choosing the right fitness professional for you. Look at their experience and qualifications first before determining if their personality fits yours. At the end of the day you are better off having someone who knows what they are doing, rather than someone who is nice or talks themselves up.

  • Once you have found a qualified professional, get their guidance on how to plan and implement a proper and scientifically based exercise program geared to you.

Many people fall prey to the fad or flavor of the month exercise routines they pull off the internet or magazines. But these are general programs and may not be suitable for you. You would not use the internet or a magazine to diagnose and treat an illness you may be suffering from instead of a doctor; so why would you do the same with exercise and put your body in harms way?

  • Listen to your body. If you are feeling run down, sore, or irritable all the time something may be wrong.

If you feel sore and tired all the time, you probably are in fact fatigued; and your body is trying to tell you to give it a break. We all have goals in life along with fitness goals, but never forget to enjoy exercise and your ability to be able to do these physical tasks. Try not to look at it as work or a chore. The exerciser should not take their fitness for granted and enjoy being able to accomplish basic physical feats, for example running a chosen distance without having to stop. Manage your time so you have time for a life, family, hobbies, and most importantly REST. If at any point you think you might be overdoing it: ask! Seeking help or asking a question will not hurt you but could be worth millions in what you learn.

So, with all that said, are you overtraining? Need help with it?

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