By James De Medeiros Men's Fitness
As a Men’s Fitness reader, you take your workouts seriously. But, have you ever found yourself placing unreasonable demands on your body to the point of overtraining? Rest assured, if your commitment to gym time is in the neighborhood of about five hours per week, chances are you aren’t at risk of overtraining. However, if it’s greater than five hours per week and training is becoming a borderline addiction even at the expense of possibly doing harm, it’s probably time to reassess your goals. If you’re in this position, ideally you’ll have the assistance of 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. We’ve compiled a list of 12 common symptoms of overtraining.
12/ Altered Resting Heart Rate
Have you noticed those heart rate monitors some guys wear at the gym? Believe it or not, they can help you determine if you’re overtraining. As personal trainer and strength coach, Dan Trink, explains, “altered resting heart rate is the result of an increased metabolic rate to meet the imposed demand of the training.” However, you don’t need to rush out and buy one of those heart rate devices. Instead, Trink advises you “simply monitor your morning heart rate” by measuring before you stand up to get out of bed and begin your day.
11/ Insatiable Thirst
Do you frequently have an unquenchable thirst? Are you starting to believe that no matter what you drink, you’ll still crave more? If this happens to be coinciding with a period of increased gym-time activity, there’s an excellent chance that you’re overtraining, which causes the body to be in a catabolic state. Why? As personal trainer and nutrition expert, Jay Cardiello, points out, “being in a catabolic state naturally causes dehydration,” and “thirst is one of the first signs of dehydration.” To combat this overtraining symptom, Cardiello suggests you need to be “getting adequate water” intake, as well as rest.
10/ Muscle Soreness
It’s normal to have muscle soreness for a day or two following a workout. However, 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 and negatively impacts on your muscle-building efforts. Muscle Model champion and transformation trainer, Micah LaCerte, says when weight training, “you should be able to get in a gym – in and out – in 45 to 75 minutes max.” Pay attention to your muscles and don’t overstay your welcome in the gym.
Is your gym time increasing, while at the same time you’re having difficulty sleeping? As personal trainer and holistic nutrition consultant, Mike Duffy, says it’s “most likely a result of a combination of nervous system and or hormonal system overload.” He suggests “to focus more on getting your 10 pm to 2 am sleep” because “this is the part of your sleeping pattern where physical restoration occurs.” He stresses, “your body grows while resting, not training,” and advises people who might be overtraining to “eat a lot of clean food and take a week off of training all together.”
When you think of working out, you don’t typically associate it with depression. But, if you’re overtraining, it’s a possible outcome. Personal trainer and strength coach, Lee Boyce, says that people who overtrain tend “to view exercise as something that it’s not – namely, a challenge, a conquest, or a space-filler.” He adds they may also suffer from “body image issues” and the belief that “the more they train, the better they'll look.” To avoid overtraining, he says, “it’s important to know the real motives behind training.” Set realistic short and long-term goals, create a plan, and stick to it.
7/ Personality Changes
Has your gym partner been noticeably absent lately? It may be he’s legitimately busy, or he could be keeping his distance from you. While Trink says overtraining is actually a “pretty rare” occurrence for most guys who train three to five hours per week, he says it’s possible for there to be an “intensification of personality traits” for guys prone to being “aggressive, irritable, or depressed.” However, he cautions that 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.
6/ Often Sick
Feeling ill isn’t part of a healthy lifestyle. In fact, sometimes it’s your body’s way of telling you that your immune system is suffering from overtraining. Cardiello explains the process of overtraining means your body is in a “continual catabolic state,” which lowers immunity and increases “chances of becoming ill.” If you’re overtraining, Cardiello advises you get rest, and “reduce training.” He also suggests “adjusting diet, nutritional and supplement” intake and “possibly implementing vitamins A and E, as well as glutamine.” And, if you’re an athlete, Cardiello indicates “55-60% of the athletic diet” should come in the form of carbohydrates.
5/ Loss of Concentration
Focus is critical. LaCerte says, “when you go into the gym you have a job” to do. Unfortunately, he says sometimes people “bring other stressors into the gym or it [becomes] social hour” and your gym time expands considerably because “you’re doing a set over here, [then] you’re talking for 12 minutes, and then you’re going back and doing another set.” LaCerte indicates that’s counterproductive because “it’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.”
4/ Injury Increase
Getting injured more often? In particular, are you re-aggravating old injuries? If so, you may be overtraining. Why? Duffy, explains, when you overtrain, your body doesn’t get enough time to recuperate between workouts meaning that at some point you begin “training in a weakened state.” He adds that if you “do this too often” you likely “increase your chance of injuries.” To prevent yourself from overtraining, he suggests introducing “forced rest periods into your routine,” as well as “changing training intensities” or enjoying “active recuperation” sports that are “low intensity and completely different from weights and cardio.”
3/ Decreased Motivation
It’s not unusual to occasionally want to skip the gym. But, if you generally live, breathe, and sleep the gym life, then suddenly become disinterested, you’re probably overexerting yourself. Instead of going to the gym and possibly risking injury by going through the motions and improperly performing an exercise, Trink recommends “taking a full week off, then being sure to reduce training volume when you do return.” He also recommends getting “quality sleep (7-9 hours per night as a generalization), proper nutrition – particularly in the pre to post-workout window – smart supplementation, and planned deloads.”
2/ Lowered Self-Esteem
For many guys, it’s natural to experience a sense of accomplishment following an intense workout. However, Cardiello, explains that “many fitness enthusiasts and professional athletes become obsessed with training” and some even “subscribe to the fictitious statement that ‘more is better.’” With this mindset, they begin overtraining and lowered self-esteem often follows. Cardiello explains this feeling “is related to the bodies nervous system” as overtraining “affects an athlete’s level of ‘happiness’ to train, depression, insomnia, and irritability.” He also cautions overtraining can be heightened by such things as, “lack of proper nutrition (hydration), proper sleep, and personal/work stressors.”
1/ Halted Progress
Has your body stopped changing in spite of your best efforts? If so, you may be overtraining. As LaCerte points out, “when you’re overtraining your body is kind of going in the opposite direction” of growth because what’s happening is that “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.