Overtraining is a topic near and dear to my heart because I have been guilty of falling into the overtraining trap more than just a few times! The problem is, I never realize when it’s happening. It just sneaks up on me. One week I’ll be eating like a champ, nailing my workouts and sleeping like a baby. A week later I’ll be frustrated because I’ve gained 2 pounds even though-hello-I’m eating like a champ and nailing my workouts. And two weeks later I’m frustrated because I can’t sleep, my joints hurt, my legs feel like lead and I’m 3 pounds heavier which doesn’t make sense because not only am I eating like a champ-I’m not even hungry! And not being hungry makes me cranky, because I like food!
And then I ask my husband, “Do you think I’m overtraining?” To which he always gives me a sideways grin and says, “maaaaaaaaybe.”
Dang. It got me again!
It’s simple logic though! Some exercise is good so more exercise must be better, right?! And the same for diet. If cutting calories leads to weight loss, cutting more calories must lead to more and faster weight loss, right?!
Unfortunately, training progress does NOT look like this:
Although that sure would be nice! In real life though, training is all over the place and it depends on all sorts of stuff so it can take any shape or form, more like this (although really it can look like anything, this is just a chart I made).
Think about professional athletes. They work super hard and then they have an off season where they do other stuff! But thanks to marketing and social media the rest of us are afraid we will blow up like a balloon if we don’t “go hard or go home” every. single. day.
I see tons of people in the gym hitting it hard day after day and they’re frustrated because no matter how little they eat and how much they exercise they just can’t lose those stubborn 10 pounds. Sound familiar?
Let’s take a look at the signs and symptoms of overtraining, shall we?!
- Decreased physical performance
- Elevated resting heart rate
- Loss of appetite
- Weight gain (increase in fat stores for people trying to lose weight)
- Weight loss (loss of lean mass for people trying to gain weight)
- Sleep disturbances/inability to sleep
- Frequent colds or sore throats
- Irritability, restlessness, depression and/or anxiousness
- Overuse injuries
- Menstrual cycle disturbances
- Excessive thirst
- Constant muscle soreness (legs feel heavy)
- Bloating/water retention
If you have symptoms of overtraining, take a day off, will ya?! Better yet, swap 1 (or 4) of your intense sweat sessions for a light walk and re-evaluate your training plan.
Here are some things to keep in mind when you are making your training schedule.
- Workouts don’t need to be a full hour. I’m not sure where this 1 hour thing came from but I’m trying to change it. If you are working HARD (and you should be a few times a week), 20-30 minutes is all you need.
- You should be excited for your hard workout. If you are dreading your Friday workout already, that’s not a good sign.
- You should be able to go all out during your workouts. If you are still sore from your last workout then you shouldn’t be doing another hard workout.
- Don’t do HIIT workouts or other max effort workouts every day.
- Obey hunger signals. When you feel hungry, EAT. Don’t ignore it until it goes away. It’s like my acupuncturist says, “body doesn’t lie, brain does”.
- Always, always, always listen to your body. I’ve ignored my body many times before and 100% of the time it gets me in trouble with injuries. I can’t say this enough: If you are starting to experience pain from overuse, take a break.
- And last, stop feeling guilty for having a light workout every now and then!