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Overtraining: Can you workout TOO much?

We are always told about the importance of working out and doing something active every day… but is it possible to be TOO active? If you are a runner, cyclist, swimmer, weightlifter or other type of athlete, the answer could be YES!

When you consistently workout 5 to 7 days per week, for long durations or at high intensities, you’re putting a tremendous amount of stress on your joints, tendons, muscles, cardiovascular system, and your immune system at a cellular level. When you train hard, your body will adapt and grow stronger, but it’s crucially important to give yourself a break and ensure that you’re getting the proper amount of rest for the type of training that you’re doing.

When you don’t allow your body to properly recover and repair itself, you will actually start to see a decrease in strength, your physical fitness, and overall endurance. Just like our brains need sleep to properly function, our muscles need downtime to heal and grow from the abuses we put them through. Have you ever heard the phrase “Muscles are torn in the gym, fed in the kitchen and built in bed?” It’s true! Here’s a simplified explanation of this process:

When you train, you’re actually creating micro-tears in your muscle tissue, which will eventually heal and grow stronger, adding additional muscle cells to accommodate the increased demand you’re putting on them. The food that you eat then supplies nutrients that are critical for that healing process (proteins, fats, carbohydrates, essential vitamins, and amino acids). And when you sleep, your muscles actively repair themselves, giving you the strength gains you’re looking for. It typically takes 36 hours for your muscles to fully repair which is also why you should never train the same muscle groups two days in a row.

Symptoms to watch for:

  • Elevated resting heart rate

  • Persistent muscle soreness

  • Weakened immune system

  • Irritability

  • Loss of motivation to workout

  • Insomnia

  • Loss of appetite

  • Weight loss

  • Depression

  • Increase in injuries

What can you do?

Give your body a ‘reset’ and take a week off from working out. If you’re one of those people who absolutely cannot take a break, then you can do some light walking, yoga or stretching during that time. The key here is to NOT let your heart rate elevate to workout levels and to not put any load on your muscles that would cause them to start the repair process. The longer you have been experiencing overtraining symptoms, the longer your body will need to rest. So remember to take as much time as you need, because your overtraining symptoms will likely recur if you resume your training intensities too soon.

Make sure you are eating enough. As indicated with the overtraining symptoms, loss of appetite is a common occurrence. When this happens, people tend to lack the calories required to sustain their energy levels and build and maintain muscle. You’ll also miss out on the proper amount of key nutrients and vitamins that your body needs to recover.

Lighten your workout load. Decrease the amount of weight you are using when weightlifting and decrease the amount of sets and intensity for the exercises you are performing. If you’re a HIIT person, slow it down and don’t go for ‘all out’ intensities. Step it back a few notches and work in the lower zones as to not rapidly increase your heart rate. If you’re a runner, cut down on the amount of miles you are running by at least half until you are fully recovered.

Rest and recovery is vital to the performance of any athlete. Always listen to your body, and if you think you might be in an over-trained state, it’s better to error on the side of caution and scale things back to avoid injury, or potentially undoing all the hard work you’ve already put in.

Go rest up, and hit it hard tomorrow!

~Coach Dawn

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