I know sometimes I like to push myself to the limit, but have you ever worked your body to exhaustion when exercising? If so, you may have experienced symptoms of overtraining.
Too much exercise can put unnecessary stress on your body and cause serious injury if left unchecked. Take these symptoms seriously so you can continue to work out safely.
Below I’ll help you recognize the symptoms of overtraining, and what you can do to prevent it or get back on track to obtain your fitness goals.
What is Overtraining?
Overtraining occurs when you work out too often. For most workout enthusiasts, exercising five hours or less every week probably won’t cause symptoms of overtraining. But when training for a marathon, a weight lifting competition, or a competitive sporting event, you could accidentally overdo it and cause discomfort or injury to your body.
Common Symptoms of Overtraining
Overtraining affects every person’s body differently. You may only notice one or two symptoms, while another person might experience multiple symptoms. Overtraining can affect beginners, intermediate, and advanced exercise enthusiasts. Regardless of whether you work out at the gym or at home, you can experience overtraining at any time.
Recognizing the symptoms of overtraining early on can help prevent long-term injuries.
Symptoms of overtraining range from an ongoing thirst even though you make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day to an altered resting heart rate (usually high or low).
Here are some more symptoms of overtraining to watch out for:
- Pain and Soreness – an early warning sign that could lead to serious injury if you don’t take time off from your workout. You could feel pain and soreness anywhere in your body, from your upper arms and shoulders to your hips, knees, and ankles.
- On-Going Injury – injuries such as shin splints, plantar fasciitis, ankle strains, knee, and hip pain that doesn’t go away after a few days may signal overtraining. You should stop working out if an injury does not heal properly or takes much longer to heal than usual.
- Fatigue – if you’re still really tired the following day or even the day afterward, your body is experiencing fatigue and needs rest. Take a few days off to relax and catch up on sleep if necessary.
- A Decline in Performance/Loss of Motivation – the inability to achieve your workout goals due to physical exhaustion, or you just don’t want to exercise.
- Regular Workouts Seem More Challenging – this occurs when you get through your routine, but it’s harder than usual.
- Fitness Plateau – if you notice your muscles aren’t developing as quickly, or you stopped losing weight, you may have reached a plateau.
- Personality Changes – sudden depression, increased stress, loss of interest or motivation, and mood swings not brought about by a life change or traumatic event may signal a hormonal imbalance due to overtraining.
- Loss of Appetite – if you work out often, you’re hungry during the day. Overtraining can cause you not to want to eat.
- Weight Gain/Weight Loss – extreme changes in your weight over a short period may mean your body is experiencing stress caused by overtraining.
- Illness Prone – your immune system can weaken if you overtrain. A weakened immune system can cause you to become sick more often.
- Lack of Sleep – if your sleep patterns change or you can’t get to sleep at night, you may need to take a few days off from exercising.
To treat symptoms of overtraining, you need to take a break from working out. Depending on your symptoms, you may need to take every other day off to ensure optimal health. Make your recovery period a priority so your body can repair and rebuild muscle, heal from injury, and rebalance your hormones.
In some cases, you may need to take off two weeks or more to allow your injuries to heal. The more serious your injury, the longer you will have to refrain from vigorous workouts.
After a sufficient recovery period, you can resume your workout routine. Adding recovery periods to your workout schedule can help prevent future overtraining episodes.
How to Prevent Overtraining
Reevaluate your workouts. Keep in mind that taking a day or two during the week to rest is better than having to take a month off because of an injury or illness.
Consider these suggestions to help prevent overtraining:
- Mix up your workout routine by participating in high-impact and low-impact exercises. For example, on Monday, complete a high-intensity interval training (HITT) session; on Tuesday, take a long walk or use the day to stretch; on Wednesday, complete a resistance training session, and so on.
- Add short rest periods to your workouts to allow your body to maintain energy throughout the workout. Get a sip of water, stretch out areas that feel tight, walk around a little bit, and then return to your routine.
- Once or twice a month, schedule a weight de-loading day. Complete your regular workout using lighter weights. Doing so gives your body a break but still allows you to feel satisfied after you finish.
- Prevent overtraining by taking care of your body. Eat a healthy, fulfilling diet, get enough sleep, and reduce stress as much as possible. Symptoms of overtraining should remind you that you need to take care of your mind and soul as well as your body.
What to Do During Recovery
Unless you have an injury, you don’t have to avoid all physical activity. During recovery, you should stretch every day to keep your muscles and joints limber. Engage in low-impact exercises such as yoga or walking. If stressed, try meditation.
When to Talk to a Physician
If an injury doesn’t heal within a week or two, go to a physician for a check-up. Failure to see a physician may result in ongoing pain, additional injury, or surgery. Don’t resume your workout schedule until your doctor gives you the okay to do so.
Many athletes and exercise enthusiasts experience one or more symptoms of overtraining when working out on a regular basis. You can avoid these symptoms by adding ‘time off’ days to your workout schedule.
Embrace your free time by engaging in other hobbies or by participating in low-impact activities during your days off. You can also choose to relax – your body will thank you for it.