For dedicated exercisers, overtraining is one of the risks of their fitness passion. Overtraining occurs when you exercise too hard for too long with insufficient rest.
There are a number of symptoms of overtraining. Learning to recognise them can help you avoid this problem before it gets out of hand.
Of course, any of the following signs can be due to other reasons, but if several of them are occurring regularly, particularly the elevated morning pulse, that's a sign to back off for a few days.
We suggest that you take a small break, enjoy some other activities for a few days, then return to training when the symptoms have disappeared and your enthusiasm has returned. Don't be tempted to jump back in too quickly though as the symptoms will only reappear again.
Some of the key signs and symptoms of you overtraining are as follows :
- Morning pulse elevated
- Regular muscle soreness after workouts
- Consistent loss of performance or reduced ability to train
- Tiredness or "heavy" muscles, even at reduced intensities
- Marked delay in recovery from exercise sessions
- Loss of motivation or enjoyment of training
- Irregular menstrual cycle or loss of periods
- Regular minor sickness
- Difficulty sleeping, or inability to feel rested
Ironically, many people react to these symptoms by pushing themselves harder - they figure that weakness or reduced performance must mean they need to train harder, but of course this only compromises the body further.
If you ignore these symptoms and keep on pushing, then you could reach a point where recovery takes weeks or even months.
Issues to consider are :
- Rest :
You need at least one day per week with no exercise. In addition, you should have a balance of hard and easy days. For beginners and intermediate level athletes, alternating hard/easy days is recommended. For more experienced athletes, a cycle of hard/hard/easy may be sustainable
- Nutrition :
Eating habits can also play a part in this issue. Examine your diet to be sure that you are getting sufficient calories, protein, carbs, vitamins and minerals.
- Hydration :
While the general population needs at least 8 glasses of water per day, for someone exercising regularly, you could easily double that. Be sure you drink lots of water, and also choose other non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated drinks, such as fruit juice. The easiest way to asses your hydration is to look at the colour of your urine - it should be light in colour. If it is dark, increase your intake of water.