This month on Gymwolf we are talking about overtraining. People are unique and each of us must discover his or her own weaknesses, vulnerabilities, and sensitivities. The clinical definition for overtraining – a state of chronic fatigue, depression, and underperformance that persists despite rest. Overtraining occurs more readily if you are simultaneously exposed to other physical and psychological stressors, such as jet lag, ongoing illness, overwork, poor nutrition etc. It is a particular problem for bodybuilders and other dieters who engage in intense exercise while limiting their food intake.
So how do you know if you’re overtraining? Well, the truth is there is no black and white line that you must cross to be overtraining. Everyone is different and everyone responds to weight training or other heavy training differently, but here are some signs (these are just few of them) :
1. You repeatedly fail to complete your normal workout.
If you’re actively getting weaker, slower, and your stamina is deteriorating despite regular exercise, you’re probably training too much.
2. You’re losing leanness despite increased exercise.
If losing fat was as easy as burning calories by increasing work output, overtraining would never result in fat gain – but that isn’t the case. It’s about the hormones. Sometimes, working out too much can actually cause muscle wasting and fat deposition. You’re “burning calories,” probably more than ever before, but it’s predominantly glucose/glycogen and precious muscle tissue. Net effect: you’re getting less lean. The hormonal balance has been tipped.
3. You’re primarily an anaerobic/power/explosive/strength athlete, and you feel restless, excitable, and unable to sleep in your down time.
When a power athlete or sprinter overtrains, the sympathetic nervous system dominates. Symptoms include hyperexcitability, restlessness, and an inability to focus (especially on athletic performance), even while at rest or on your off day. Sleep is generally disturbed in sympathetic-dominant overtrained athletes, recovery slows, and the resting heart rate remains elevated.
4. You’re primarily an endurance athlete, and you feel overly fatigued, sluggish, and useless.
Too much resistance training can cause sympathetic overtraining; too much endurance work can cause parasympathetic overtraining, which is characterized by decreased testosterone levels, increased cortisol levels, debilitating fatigue (both mental and physical), and a failure to lose body fat. Being fit enough to run ten miles doesn’t mean that you now have to do it every day.
5. Your joints, bones, or limbs hurt.
In the lifts, limb pain can either be delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) or it can indicate poor technique or improper form; DOMS is a natural response that should go away in a day or two, while poor form is more serious and can be linked to overuse or overtraining. Listen to your body!
6. You’re suddenly falling ill a lot more often.
7. You feel like crap the hours and days after a big workout.
Exercise generally elevates mood; if it’s having a negative effect on your mood, it’s probably too much.
There is also planned overtraining. Overtraining can be used advantageously, as when a bodybuilder is purposely overtrained for a brief period of time to supercompensate during a regeneration phase. These are known as “shock micro-cycles” and were a key training technique used by Soviet athletes.
Overtraining prevention is up to you. All you need to do is follow a few of the basic principals in muscle building. Quality over quantity, eat big including lots of carbs and protein and rest up between workouts.
– Marks Daily Apple [http://www.marksdailyapple.com/overtraining/]
– Muscle and Strength [http://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/overtraining101-what-you-need-to-know.html]
– Smith DJ (2003), “A framework for understanding the training process leading to elite performance”, Sports medicine 33 (15): 1103–26
– Wikipedia [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overtraining]