I have written a lot about overtraining and the need for regeneration and rest. Most of the information you see online and in magazines is about diet or exercise, while little attention is placed on the possible burnout you can get from all of it. In previous articles and blog posts I have talked about how to avoid or overcome overtraining. In these writings I talk mostly about regeneration and what to do to help you recover better and get out of that overtrained state if you are in it. I realized that I haven’t talked a whole lot on how to spot overtraining and how to realize you are approaching being burnt out or already are. For that purpose I will address these issues with 5 signs of overtraining. During the Holidays I went back to Florida to see that Family and left my clients here in California with about a week off. In many cases this week off was needed and helped them to recover from all the training we have been doing. A few of the really dedicated ones stuck with the workout schedule and did some workouts on their own, which is fantastic. However, shortly after I got back into the swing of things I realized that one of my clients was a good bit overtrained. There are many ways to spot overtraining and he suffered from two of the five signs of overtraining that I will talk about. With no further ado here they are: 1) Pain or Soreness: The first thing that tipped me off that my client was overtrained was pain. He had a wrist injury and during one of our training sessions he got a shooting knee pain performing a movement that normally is pain free for him. This knee pain stuck around throughout the session and continued into the next. If you are getting constant aches and pains or get a pain that is nagging every time you exercise, this may be a heads up that you need some rest.
Soreness also falls into this category. While it is great to be sore from a workout, you shouldn’t be abnormally sore. In other words, if it is taking 4 or 5 days for your soreness to go away you may be overtrained. This is a sign that your body is behind the stresses you are placing on it. It cannot catch up and regenerate the muscles and neurological system compared to how much you are challenging it.
Tips: Be aware of how your body feels and realize the difference before a one-time pain and a pain that is consistent, nagging and may turn into a sidelining injury. Pay attention to how many days you typically experience muscle soreness after workouts.
2) Decrease in Performance: This one is pretty obvious and should be easily spotted. If you are normally able to workout at a high intensity through a workout and lately you been dragging in the gym, that’s a sign. If your weight lifting ability has gone down that could be another sign. If the weights you used in previous sessions are now much more challenging to you then before, it is likely that you need some rest.
Tips: Keep track of your performance, including your willingness to train or the weights that you use in certain exercises. If you know that you are struggling with the workouts this week, there is likely a reason behind it.
3) Recovery and Heart Rates: Based on your style of exercise; recovery in between sets or your heart rates are a good sign of overtraining. If you are focusing on heavy lifting or are really weight specific, pay attention to how much time you need in between sets. It probably means something if last week it took you 2 minutes in between sets of squats in order to rip out 5 reps, and this week you need 3 or 4 minutes.
If your workouts are metabolically intensive and you are challenging your heart rates then pay attention to those. Is it taking much longer then usual to get your heart rates up? Is it taking longer then usual to recover and get your heart rate down from a specific exercise? These are signs that your body is spent and having a tough time getting to a normal state.
Tips: Track your recovery time in between sets. If you are lifting intensive then pay attention to how long it takes in between sets until you are ready to go. If you are metabolically intensive then keep track of your heart rates during exercise and for recovery.
4) Tiredness: Hopefully you know that you should be getting between 6-8 hours of sleep a night. If you are working out really hard then sleep is extremely important. When you sleep, your body really goes to work at healing itself and cleaning up any toxins you have in it. Your workouts are really stressful on your body, so sleep is a must. Lack of sleep will wear you down probably faster then anything else.
Tips: This one is easy; get your sleep. A ton of research has been done on napping during the day. Studies show that 20 a minute nap is highly beneficial to your body and mind. If you have the time, take a nap.
5) Sickness: A great alert that your body will give if you are really overtrained is sickness. This usually will not happen unless you are really destroying your body, its basically your body pleading with you for rest. If you suddenly come down with a cold over night and no one else you know is sick, this is likely because of training. Now, don’t get a common cold mixed up with a cold from breaking your body down too much. Pay attention to your surroundings; is anyone at work or in your social life sick? If no then it is likely that it is just you pushing yourself to far.
Tips: By the time you get sick from too much exercise you are likely pretty badly overtrained. Stop exercise immediately and get some rest. The best way to recover is to sleep a little extra, take some vitamin-C and eat tons of fruits and veggies.
Keep in mind that just because you suffer from one of the 5 above, does not mean you are necessarily overtrained. Technically you walk into the gym in a slightly overtrained state just about every time you exercise. However, these are a little more intense and can actually negatively impact the work you are doing. Pay attention to these signs and if they start adding up together then think about taking a break. Great ways to dodge the overtrained phenomenon is unloading every few weeks and to follow these tips that I gave in this writing. You should never get to the point where you have to take a week off because you have gone too far with exercise.