So, the first day of summer is officially here-- cue "panic-mode" for many as they realize they aren't "beach ready". Solution? It is crunch time, so hit the gym, and hit it hard.
While this isn't the worst idea, it also isn't the best. Why? Because trying to make up for lost time at the gym, and going about it the wrong way, can often result in overtraining.
What is overtraining? It can be best defined as "the state where one has been repeatedly stressed by training to the point where rest is no longer adequate to allow for recovery".
What does that look like? Well, it can look like a number of things both internally and externally! I'm sure we all know/have seen that one person at the gym doing a crazy, high intensity, 2 hour workout for the millionth time that week. Or the person back in the gym post-workday, after already logging a 2 hour session in the morning (and then bragging about it on social media...). Or maybe that person that has been doing heavy squatting for 5 days in a row in order to "grow a bikini booty"...
Are these people overtraining? Possibly-- I would assume so, but only they would really know.
How about yourself? Are you potentially overtraining? Here are some signs that you just might be...
1.) A plateau and/or strength loss
If you're working out to your best effort consistently, but your body has stopped responding, you could be overtraining.
Think about it this way, when training, your muscles are being torn. Because of this, they need adequate time repair and recover. Not giving them the proper time to rest and recover means you are training on already torn muscles, re-tearing them again! This sends your body into the opposite direction of growth.
So, think doing legs 5 days a week is going to magically build your glutes? Think again. You're doing more harm for those suckers than good. Avoid this catastrophe by ensuring you're taking rest days each week and split training to avoid over-working certain muscle groups (and yes, abs count as a muscle group!).
Usually one of the most common tip-offs. This symptom affects the body/mind in a few different ways. To start, you may be chronically feeling tired/sluggish with no external forces causing that (i.e. not stressed from something, not tired from plain ole lack of sleep...).
As well, perhaps you find yourself lacking motivation. That could mean not feeling enthusiastic/motivated to go to the gym whereas you typically love training, or not feeling enthusiastic/motivated about any other everyday activity that usually brings you joy.
Also, despite the feeling of fatigue, you may be struggling to fall asleep at night (as a result of nervous system and hormonal system overload).
All of these could be signs of fatigue. The cure? Well to start, as mentioned above, REST. Give your body time to rest. Next, take time to focus. Focus on your mental health, focus on getting the recommended amount of sleep per night, and focus on taking in clean foods and nutrients. Take a week off of training and put yourself and your body first.
3.) Extended muscle-soreness/frequent sickness & injuries
Sore muscles after a workout aren't a-typical; however, sore muscles past the 72-hour mark are, and they can be a sign of overtraining.
If your muscles are sore for far too long, it may be because they aren't recovering! And, muscles not recovering properly impacts their building abilities. Take a guess on how to avoid this one... yep, REST, and on top of that, check out how long your workout sessions are taking. If it is isn't in the 45-75 minute window, then cut it down.
As for sickness, obviously this shouldn't be part of a healthy lifestyle! If you are chronically getting sick, your immune system may be suffering from overtraining.
If you are overtraining, your body is in a "continual catabolic state", which lowers your immunity and ups your chances of catching illnesses. Solution? Well you know one of them by now, but also make sure you're getting in essential vitamins such as A, E, and glutamine. These vitamins may also help with any chronic, nagging injuries that keep popping up.
Injuries that won't seem to go away can be a sign that you need to pump the brakes on your training and perhaps consult a doctor.
Overtraining is a serious issue and the best treatment is rest. The longer the overtraining has occurred, the more rest that is required. If you think you may be suffering from overtraining, here are a few other suggestions for treatments:
1.) Take a break: Take time off to recover and refocus.
2.) Reduce the load/intensity of your training: Cut down on the volume and intensity and taper back (deload) every couple of months or between training programs.
3.) Massage therapy: Head to a massage therapist for either a deep-tissue or sports massage to target tension in affected muscles and release tension on joints, ligaments, and tendons. You can also self-massage your muscles through foam rolling and trigger point therapy.
4.) Ice baths: Ice baths can stimulate the immune system, improve circulation and digestion, encourage blood flow, and lessen pain sensitivity.
5.) Proper calorie and vitamin intake: If overtrained, the body may be depleted of various nutrients. To help with recovery, ensure that your diet is high in carbohydrates, lean proteins, and healthy fats. As well, consume foods that are high in vitamins to allow the body to absorb all that your meals have to offer.
6.) Split training: As mentioned earlier, splitting your training program so that different sets of muscles are worked on different days will provide appropriate time for recovery.
As always, I would be more than happy to provide you with a smart training split utilizing rest and deloading periods to avoid the risk overtraining. Feel free to contact me, and I'll personalize a plan for your goals!
So, even if it is crunch time right now, that doesn't mean training longer will get you results any quicker.
*For lack of a better way to put this right now...* Don't screw yourself over! Train smarter, not longer, and you'll be more susceptible to achieving the results you desire!