Overtraining is an actual condition that many individuals face when frequently exercising with minimal rest periods. Often we push ourselves to the limit to get where we want to be, but there is a risk that we could be doing too much. If you are unaware of the symptoms, overtraining may reverse everything you have worked hard on.
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Causes of Overtraining?
Overtraining occurs in those who exercise at a high intensity excessively without allowing the body to get adequate rest. In addition, quick increases in intensity, duration, and amount of sessions can promote overtraining. This results in diminished performance, a plateau in weight loss or gains, and psychological stress. Overtraining affects multiple body systems, including musculoskeletal, immune, endocrine, cardiovascular, nervous, and hormonal systems. It is essential to recognize the symptoms of overtraining early to prevent long-term damage to the body.
Symptoms of Overtraining Syndrome
The symptoms of overtraining have three stages:
Here, you may see a minor plateau or decrease in performance. Aerobic performance may decrease while still being able to perform at high levels. In other words, you will feel short of breath more quickly doing a familiar activity. Fatigue begins, and sleep becomes irregular. You may crave sweets, caffeine and get sleepy after meals. In addition, you may find it challenging to get rid of that extra body fat. Other problems encountered in the first stage include Musculoskeletal injuries, cortisol elevation, sexual dysfunction, and stress. If these symptoms are not addressed, overtraining can progress to stage 2.
Along with the worsening of the symptoms above, the “fight or flight” part of the nervous system is increased. This means increased heart rate and hormone dysfunction. Specifically, cortisol increases in the body, which can cause increased insulin levels. If you wake up in the middle of the night and cannot fall back asleep, your cortisol levels are high. In addition, elevated cortisol levels decrease the ability for muscle recovery post-exercise. Chronic overtraining can occur if this is not addressed, leading to stage three.
This happens when overtraining becomes chronic, leading to worsening bodily functions. One may feel no desire to train or compete in their regular activity. Serious injuries can occur due to diminished performance. The sympathetic nervous system becomes exhausted, causing plummeting hormone levels and very low heart rates for recovery from exercise. This is a serious stage where recovery is necessary.
Recovery From Overtraining
If you think you are overtrained, it is easy to get back on track. First and foremost, rest! How long you rest will depend on how long you have been experiencing symptoms. If you think you are in the beginning stages, start off resting for 3-4 days, and as it progresses, 1-2 weeks may be needed. In addition, reducing the volume, intensity and easing back into regular activity is recommended for recovery.
Watch your diet. Reduce refined carbohydrates since they increase cortisol levels and healthy fats to control inflammation related to the stress from overtraining. Ensure you’re eating well-balanced meals to fuel yourself properly when training hard and get adequate sleep.
Listen to Your Body
Pay attention to your body. Your body is smart and will give you cues, letting you know if something is off. If you’re feeling excessively fatigued or dealing with persistent soreness, it’s time to take it easy.
Rest and Recovery
Your body needs time to repair and rebuild. Build rest days into your routine, pamper yourself, and let those muscles recharge. The term ‘no days off’ does not apply here; days off may be exactly what you need to get back on track.
Fitness is a marathon, not a sprint. Gradually increase the intensity and volume of your workouts instead of jumping headfirst into an intense routine. Your body will thank you!
Mix up your workouts to prevent overtraining. Incorporate different activities like yoga, swimming, or dance to give your body a break from your usual routine. It’ll help you stay motivated and avoid those pesky plateaus.
Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep every night. Quality sleep is when your body does its magic, repairing tissues and replenishing energy stores. Create a bedtime routine and make sleep a non-negotiable part of your healthy lifestyle.
Fuel Up Right
Proper nutrition is the secret to keeping your body going strong. Ensure you’re giving it the nutrients it needs, including a balance of macronutrients (carbs, protein, and healthy fats) and plenty of hydration.
Remember, balance is the key. Push yourself, but also give yourself permission to rest and recover. That’s how we keep the fun in fitness and avoid undoing all our hard work.