Don’t overdo it and get plenty of rest. Over doing it in or out of the gym? Overtraining Is Rare, But Overtaxing Isn’t. You train hard, harder than everybody else in the gym. So hard that you’re constantly sore, feel mentally drained for a good part of the day, and sometimes lack focus and get mood swings. Despite all this, the big gains aren’t coming.
What Overtraining Isn’t
We often get confused about overtraining because even the name steers us in the wrong direction. First of all, overtraining doesn’t mean training too much. Just because you did 30 sets for biceps in one session doesn’t mean that you over-trained them. It doesn’t necessarily mean that what you did was smart, but you didn’t over-train them.
We all have our own recovery capacities, but the point is that overtraining isn’t simply about “training too much.” And getting injured doesn’t necessarily mean you were overtraining either.
What Overtraining Is
A physiological state caused by an excess accumulation of physiological, psychological, emotional, environmental, and chemical stress that leads to a sustained decrease in physical and mental performance, and that requires a relatively long recovery period.
There are four important elements in that definition:
- Physiological state: Overtraining isn’t an action (i.e., training too much), but a state similar to burnout, medical depression, or illness.
- An excess
accumulation of physiological, psychological, emotional, environmental, and
chemical stress: Stress has both a localized and a systemic effect. Every type of
stress has a systemic impact on the body, but this impact isn’t limited to the
structures involved directly in the stressful event. This systemic impact is
caused by the release of stress hormones (glucocorticoids like cortisol, for
example) and an overexertion of the adrenal glands.
Every single type of stressor can contribute to the onset of an overtraining state. Job troubles, tension in a relationship, death in the family, or pollutants and chemicals in the air we breathe, the food we eat, or the water we drink, etc., can all contribute to overtraining. Training too much is obviously another stress factor that can facilitate the onset of the overtraining state, but it’s far from being the sole suspect.
- A sustained decrease in physical and mental performance: The key term here is sustained. Some people chalk up a few below-par workouts and automatically assume they’re overtraining. It’s not the case. It could simply be acute or accumulated fatigue due to poor recovery management or a deficient diet.
- A response to constantly overloading the nervous, immune, and hormonal systems: Training improperly can indeed contribute to this excessive overload, but it isn’t the sole factor. As such, the key to avoiding a state of overtraining is to not push these three systems to their limit and also doing what you can to facilitate their recovery…
You’re probably not over-training
Your chances of developing real overtraining syndrome are very slim. If you’re unlucky enough to develop true overtraining syndrome, it won’t take you days or even weeks to get back in top form; it will take months.
You cannot develop overtraining syndrome by only training 4-6 hours a week, especially if you’re using methods that don’t challenge the nervous system. However, just because you aren’t likely to develop an overtraining syndrome doesn’t mean that you won’t suffer from improper training.
Are You a Stimulus Addict?
If you’re reading everything you can about training and spend a good part of your day thinking about your workouts and how you can improve them, you’re likely a stimulus addict. Your not alone!
A stimulus addict is someone who fell in love with the actual act of training and using his muscles not so much for the gains but for the feeling and sensation derived from the workout itself. For these guys, the training itself is its own reward. Being a stimulus addict has its pros. You’ll rarely lose motivation to train, you’ll stick to it over the long run, and you’ll never frown upon hard work.
However, you are the perfect candidate to train excessively, pushing yourself too hard, for too long, too often. A stimulus addict often prides himself on working harder than everybody else instead of getting better results than everybody else. As such, a stimulus addict is likely to become his own worst enemy – engaging in training practices that lead to stagnation (or even regression) and feeling like crap all the time.
Lethargy, and Low Sex Drive
If you do a workout that stresses the nervous system too much, you’ll suffer from “workout hangover.” This is a very accurate term because that’s pretty much how you feel: lack of focus and energy, apathy, no motivation, and sometimes a headache. Not surprisingly, you can’t get in a good workout when you’re in that state, but you’ll feel like crap for the whole day.
You can also overload the hormonal system. In the case of training, it means producing too much cortisol. Cortisol is not the enemy. It has an important role in the training process. It helps mobilize energy during the session by increasing the breakdown of glycogen and fat stores to produce energy to fuel your muscles. Granted, it also increases the breakdown of muscles, but that isn’t really the big problem.
The big problem is that cortisol, testosterone, and estrogen are produced from the same “mother hormone,” which is pregnenolone. The more cortisol you produce, the less pregnenolone you have available to produce testosterone!
If you constantly overproduce cortisol, you’ll not only have a lower testosterone level, but what little testosterone you have left will have a harder time doing its job. This leads to less muscle, more fat, and no libido. In fact, one of the best signs of a low testosterone/high cortisol state is the lack of what is affectionately called “morning wood” and a drastic decrease in sexual interest. Another sign of excessive cortisol production is water retention and flat muscles.
Overtraining or addiction?
You take your workouts seriously. But have you ever found yourself placing unreasonable demands on your body to the point of overtraining?
Rest assured: If you’re logging five hours of hardcore gym time every week, you probably aren’t at risk of overtraining. But if you’re going longer than that, and training is becoming a borderline addiction even to the point of possible harm—it’s probably time to reassess your goals.
Sound familiar? It’s probably not a bad idea to double-check with a knowledgeable and experienced personal trainer who can quickly help you get your training back on track. Regardless, it’s crucial that you listen to your body and know the signs of overtraining. Here’s a list of 12 common symptoms you should constantly look out for.
1. Altered resting heart rate – Have you noticed those heart rate monitors some guys wear at the gym? Believe it or not, they can help determine if you’re overtraining or you can simply monitor your morning heart rate the old-fashioned way by measuring before you stand up to get out of bed and begin your day, If your resting heart rate is unusually high or low, you should probably talk to a doctor.
2. Insatiable thirst – Often have an unquenchable thirst? Are you starting to believe no matter what you drink, you’ll still crave more? If this happens to be coinciding with a period of increased gym time, there’s an excellent chance you’re overtraining. Here’s why: Your body might be in a catabolic state, meaning it’s starting to consume its own muscle for protein. Being in a catabolic state naturally causes dehydration, the solution is simple: Drink plenty of water and get lots of sleep.
3. Extended muscle soreness – It’s normal to have sore muscles for a day or two after a workout. But if you’re still sore past the 72-hour mark, be sure to schedule a break and rest. This type of extended soreness is a sign your muscles aren’t recovering, which negatively impacts on your muscle-building efforts. You should be able to get in a gym session—in and out—in 45 to 75 minutes max. You really don’t need to spend hour after hour each session.
4. Insomnia – Can’t sleep even though you’re wiping yourself out at the gym? focus more on getting your sleep, because this is where physical restoration occurs. your body grows while resting, not training, and people who might be overtraining need to eat a lot of clean food and take a week off training all together.
5. Depression – Exercise is typically good for your mental health—but if you’re overtraining, it could have the opposite effect. That’s not all; you might also suffer from “body image issues” and believe “the more you train, the better you’ll look.” To avoid overtraining, it’s important to know the real motives behind training. Set realistic short and long-term goals, create a plan, and stick to it.
6. Personality changes – Has your gym partner been noticeably absent lately? While overtraining is actually a “pretty rare” occurrence for most guys who train three to five hours per week, it’s possible for there to be an intensification of personality traits for guys prone to being “aggressive, irritable, or depressed.” However, these changes aren’t always the result of overtraining, as there are other factors that can overly stress the nervous system. Listen to your body and react accordingly.
7. Frequent sickness – Feeling ill isn’t part of a healthy lifestyle. In fact, sometimes it’s your body’s way of telling you your immune system is suffering from overtraining. The process of overtraining means your body is in a “continual catabolic state,” which lowers immunity and increases chances of becoming ill. If you’re overtraining get rest, and reduce training and try adjusting diet, nutritional and supplement intake, and possibly implementing vitamins A and E, as well as glutamine.
8. Loss of concentration – Focus is critical. Unfortunately, sometimes people bring other stressors into the gym, or it becomes a social hour and your gym time expands considerably because you’re doing a set over here, then you’re talking for 10 minutes, then you’re going back and doing another set. That’s not how the body works when we’re trying to build muscle and lose fat, and it can definitely lead to overtraining or ineffective training altogether.
9. Increased injury – Getting injured more often? In particular, are you re-aggravating old injuries? If so, you may be overtraining. Why? when you over-train, your body doesn’t get enough time to recuperate between workouts meaning that at some point you begin training in a weakened state. If you do this too often, you likely increase your chance of injuries. To prevent yourself from overtraining, try introducing forced rest periods into your routine, as well as changing training intensities or enjoying active recuperation sports—something low-intensity and completely different from weights and cardio.
10. Decreased motivation – It’s not unusual to occasionally want to skip a workout. But, if you generally live, breathe, and sleep the gym life, then suddenly become disinterested, you’re probably overexerting yourself, and possibly risking injury by going through the motions and improperly performing an exercise. Take a full week off, then reduce training volume when you do return. get quality sleep (7-9 hours per night as a generalization), proper nutrition is very important too.
11. Lowered self-esteem – For many guys, it’s natural to experience a sense of accomplishment following an intense workout. But when you get obsessed with training it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that “more is better.” That has two dangerous effects: Overtraining and lowered self-esteem. This feeling is related to the body’s nervous system, since overtraining affects an athlete’s level of ‘happiness’ to train. Overtraining can be heightened by such things as lack of proper nutrition (hydration), proper sleep, and personal/work stressors.
12. Halted progress – Has your body stopped changing in spite of your best efforts? If so, you may be overtraining. When you’re overtraining, your body is going in the opposite direction of growth, because your muscles are torn and all you’re doing is re-tearing them again. Don’t risk possibly entering into a muscle-burning phase. Remember: Muscles need a chance to repair, and that’s only possible when your body is given the proper time to rest and recover before being forced into more exercise.
Overtraining Is Rare, But Overtaxing Isn’t. You train hard, harder than everybody else in the gym. So hard that you’re constantly sore, feel mentally drained for a good part of the day, and sometimes lack focus and get mood swings. Despite all this, the big gains aren’t coming.
Even more frustrating, a lot of people are progressing at a faster pace, and they’re not killing it like you are. What’s going on here? Simply put, don’t overdo it and get plenty of rest with good sleep and proper nutrition.