Overtraining syndrome: five signs you need to take it easy
October 9, 2017
Blog by: Suryakant Tripathi
Overtraining syndrome is a condition that occurs when the body is pushed (through exercise) beyond its natural ability to recover. Importantly, it’s not to be confused with mere tiredness, which is to be expected whenever you are engaged in a comprehensive workout regime.
So how do you know when you have it?
The mild overtraining syndrome is basically the same as having the flu: you feel rundown, and getting out of bed in the morning is tough. In extreme cases, when the body’s requests for recovery continue to be ignored, long-term neurological, hormonal and muscular symptoms could occur.
The balance between training hard and resting is always going to be a juggling act. It takes time to get to know your body and what its capable of. Once you learn to identify the signs of overtraining syndrome you’ll be able to strategically reign back your training in order to recover and come back harder another day.
As a general practice in health and fitness, it is useful to know your resting heart rate upon waking.
While the healthy range is 60-100 beats per minute, the fitter you get the lower your RHR will be. So much so that many athletes and fitness fanatics have a resting heart rate in the 40s when fully fit.
During periods of overtraining, you’ll notice that your waking heart rate will be 10-15 beats per minute higher than usual. Interestingly, this will also be the case when your body is in the early stages of fighting off an illness, so anytime you detect an elevated heart rate take a rest and perhaps consider some countermeasures, like antioxidant supplements.
Also, note that RHR can be affected by medication.
Counter-intuitively, knackering yourself out at the gym can actually make it harder to get to sleep.
If you are going to bed tired yet laying there unable to get to sleep and this coincides with an increase in training frequency or vigor, the chances are that you are overtraining.
Best practice is to take a few days away from the gym in order to recover and let your hormones and central nervous system restore their equilibrium. The supplement ZMA can also help improve your quality of sleep.
3. Emotional Changes
Overtraining syndrome has influences far beyond the physical realm. Because of the tax on your hormones and the general strain on your system, it’s not uncommon to encounter emotional changes such as a lack of motivation and lower self-esteem. In advanced cases, even depression has been observed.
4. Muscular Soreness
I’m not referring to typical post-workout muscle soreness here; it’s completely natural to feel some soreness for a couple of days after training – especially when you are doing regular resistance training.
However, if your aches are lasting three to four days and beyond, it’s probably a sign that your body has not adequately been able to recover and you need to consider taking a break in training.
You may also feel muscles ache that you haven’t actually trained. For example, sufferers of overtraining syndrome often report feeling aches in their legs and hips, even when they haven’t directly worked those areas in the gym.
5. Poor Performance
Perhaps the easiest to spot indicator of overtraining is poor performance.
Generally speaking, all of your workouts should be tracked and documented. There are two main reasons for this: firstly, it helps you determine whether you are making strength and performance gains; and secondly so that if you wish to recover a certain level of conditioning in the future you can recount the workouts that led up to it.
Whilst it’s entirely possible to have an off day in the gym (your nutrition might be slightly wrong or you might be training at a sub-optimal time of day), two or three bad workouts on the trot represents a big warning sign that its either time for a new training focus, a rest week, or both!
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