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Am I Overtraining? How You’ll Know

Overtraining is bad news. Bad because not many people recognize they’re doing it until they’ve created an injury, hit a plateau, exhausted themselves and are cussing and quitting in frustration. I mean, TRAIN HARD is the mantra that the go-getting, ripped and fit King and Queens of fitness go by, right? And if you work harder than them– if you dedicate 12 hours a day to working out– you’ll get even better results, right?

Wrong, Friend!

Physical training, whether weight lifting, running, cardio, High Intensity Interval Training… you name it, may feel like it fits right in with the “Do more, get more” law that works in a lot of areas of our lives (work long hours, get overtime pay, invest in a relationship, get a great friendship, etc.). With that in mind, it’s easy to fall into the trap of “doubling up” on workouts all day every day without proper rest or nutrition because “it’s getting the job done”.

But your body doesn’t work like that. It needs rest. It needs recovery. Without those two critical elements, overtraining creeps in and with it, a whole host of problems that will absolutely round-house-to-the-face your progress or halt it altogether.

Chances are, many of you are already training, feeling the effects but don’t realize it.

Tell me if this sounds familiar: Double workouts every day. Cardio. Then a run. Then weights. Lifting a certain body part every day. Not taking a rest day… all behaviors with high potential to overtrain. If you think this may be you, here’s a few ways to spot it:

How To Know If You’re Overtraining

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As a definition, overtraining is working out more than you have time to recover. There are lots of subtle side effects- chronic state of being tired, “bonking” in a workout and even depression. Having a symptom doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in overtraining mode (though it’s definitely possible… you’ll know), but multiple symptoms is a pretty good sign. Here’s a few things that may specifically indicate you’re hitting it a little too hard.

Workout Crash

You may know the feeling… the consistent inability to really “bring it” to a workout you’ve been able to crush the week before. The weights you’ve have no problem lifting are too heavy, your stamina is shot, you’re unable to complete a workout or perform at a level you’ve become used to.

Fat Creep/Fat Loss Plateau

You’re training hard. You’re eating the right things… but the fat stays. In some cases, the fat may even increase. Barring eating too FEW calories amidst your training or water retention after a cheating on your nutrition or not drinking enough, chances are you’ve worked so hard your hormones are all kinds of messed up and your body has upended its normal process of energy in/energy out fat processing.

Aches and Pains

This is a pretty easy one to recognize as you FEEL it. Weird aches in the primary workers of your kinetic chain- elbows, knees, shoulders and even wrists. This is different from soreness if you’re just starting out. You know when you’re feeling it as it’s not a debilitating pain, but one that seems to come into play after multiple weeks of training. I find I get dull pains, but when pressure is applied, it’s a burning pain. If this is you, time for a rest week. Most programs give you rest weeks for this purpose, to take the load off… it’s wise to follow them.

Increase in Sick Days

If you’re getting sick more often than usual and have been training pretty hard for a while, your training may actually be a culprit. While exercise DOES improve immunity, persistant workouts without rest can have a degrading effect. Too much, too often can get you sick more than you’d like to be.*

“That workout sucked and now I’m pissed.”- AKA- the Postworkout Rush Gone Bad

I don’t care who you are, I don’t care how rough your workout is- if you’re healthy, you feel awesome on completion of a workout. It’s a reason I recommend working out first thing in the morning- kicks the day off RIGHT!! If you’re overtraining, you usually don’t feel this way. You feel punished, lethargic and maybe even on edge.

Go Hard or Go Home 7 Days A Week

If you’re the type that’s working out multiple times a day every day of the week, it’s going to catch up with you. The body needs time to recover. Unless you’re Superman or the T-1000, your body is not made of steel and it’s not impervious to needing rest. If you’re going hard, you need at LEAST one day of doing NOTHING.

How To Avoid Overtraining

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Avoiding overtraining is easy. It’s simply taking a rest week, getting sleep and fueling for proper recovery throughout. If you’re enjoying any of the items above, chances are you may need to take a rest week. That doesn’tmean sitting on your duffer. You can still do lighter activity but it does mean taking a week off from the regular schedule. Most all Beachbody programs offer rest weeks. USE THEM. They all offer rest days. USE THEM (I’m looking at you, “I just had to crush a workout today even though it was a rest day” guy/girl).

We’re talking prevent offense here. Once you’re playing defense and feeling the effects, it’s too late. And in many cases, you’ll come back better, faster and stronger after some time off.

So, simply put, follow your program. They were designed by sports science experts. They’ll make you perform better. They’ll keep you from overtraining and keep your ultimate goal on track.

Got questions, comments or anything in between? Leave them below or get hooked up with free coaching (from yours truly) right here.

*Hackey, AC, Koltun, KJ: The immune system and overtraining in athletes: clinical implications, Acta Clin Croat. 2012 Dec;51(4):633-41.s 

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2 Comments : Leave a Reply

  1. Coirtney says:

    I have been going hard for over 3 yrs. I would finish one program,like Insanity, and go right to the next. I then was doubling one right after another of t 25 and p90x3 bkz 30 minutes did mot seem like enough. I would the go run or hike in the evenings as well. I am a n aerialist and I was fencing once a wk as well. The 1000 calorie a.m workout became the standard. And I HATE to take a day off. Even this yr. After surgery I only took 1 rest day. I eat really clean but was keeping calories low. I looked better than ever and was trying to keep advancing. i have failed. I am tired, irritable, and fatter. Eating far less, did not eat back work out calories, in fact cut them, and working out 6 days a wk hard w 4 days a wk. Extra left me a low t, low calcium, dizziness, higher resting heartrate, cellulite (which I have never had) and 14 pounds heavier. I have had a wkly deficit of 10000 plus for a yr and weigh more th an ever. I worked harder,longer and ate less when clothes got tight but they just got tighter. Hard to wrap my head around.

    • Coach Dan V. says:

      It can be very hard to wrap your head around- it’s almost counter-intuitive. How are you doing now?

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