Are you officially a gym rat? as I’m sure you know the term `gym rat` is a term for someone who is addicted or obsessed with working out. Basically, the gym is like their home.
Being a gym rat isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I mean you could be addicted to far worse things such as alcohol or drugs, right? Nothing positive about that.
But regarding the gym, I know this
feeling myself, all too well, I was certainly a `gym rat` back in the day
before personal training became really thought of.
So, with no guidance I learned from my own trial and errors, one of the biggest errors was working out hard twice daily, then not understanding why I wasn’t seeing gains.
So, let’s take a look at what
happens to your body when your love of working out becomes an addiction or
obsession, basically, when you become a gym rat.
Over-training or overtaxing your body?
Over-training Is Rare, But Overtaxing Isn’t. You train hard, harder than everybody else in the gym, of course you do, you’re a gym rat, and that`s what gym rats do, right? 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 Over-training 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 Over-training 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:
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
- 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
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. You’re 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.
Workout Hangover, Lethargy, and Low
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
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
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.
Over-training or addiction?
Being a gym rat, you take your workouts seriously. But have you ever found yourself placing unreasonable demands on your body to the point of over-training?
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.
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.
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.
in a catabolic state naturally causes dehydration, the solution is simple:
Drink plenty of water and get lots of sleep.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Being a gym rat can be tough. Over-training 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.
So, after reading this blog, Are you officially a gym rat?