Am I overtraining?

Life is all about balance. For example, I like to balance my book against the arm of the reading chair while I drink my tea and eat cake. Other people like to balance yoga with weight training, or distance running and cycling. Whatever your exercise preference, it’s important to recognise that you can overdo it, and that constantly pushing yourself and your body can have a detrimental impact. 

It could lead to putting your body through more stress and strain than is necessary through exercising too much. 

Being mindful of how you exercise and recognising the signs of over exercising can help to ensure that you don’t damage your body. There’s no hard and fast rule about how much an individual should or should not exercise: that’s very much dependent on levels of fitness, how you fuel your workouts, and listening to your body. 

Can you work out too much? 

Yes, you can.

Consistently not giving your body enough time to rest and recover between sessions can damage your body, and prevent you from achieving your goals. This, plus the desire to see results and the endorphin rush we get from exercise, can lead to the development of Overtraining Syndrome (Rchsd.org, 2019). 

This can actually lower your fitness levels overall and lead to injury, highlighting the importance of making sure you get a proper rest period in between sessions. This will also help to ensure that you have enough energy to properly fuel your training, and not burn out. 

What are the signs of overtraining?

The symptoms of doing too much exercise can be varied, depending on the type of exercise that you’re doing. These are some examples. 

  • Muscle Soreness: Now, you might expect some amounts of muscle soreness during the periods in which you exercise, especially if you’re a fan of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), but if this soreness doesn’t seem to be abating after two days, then you might be overdoing it (Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic, 2018).
  • Injuries from overuse: Consistent high impact on the same muscles and joints can cause injury. This is particularly relevant for runners, where running too much can cause injuries including shin splints, plantar fasciitis, joint strains and even soft tissue injuries. The most important thing about recognising a potential injury is that you then give it a chance to heal and recover before putting further strain on it. 
  • Fatigue: Yes, exercise is all about expending energy and can make you feel tired. Fatigue is a little different. Fatigue comes into play when your body has not yet fully recovered from the last round, and can exhaust you during or after a workout.
  • Mood changes: It is widely documented that exercising causes a rush of hormones around the body which can make you feel elated. However, too much exercise can have the opposite effect, creating a hormonal imbalance, elevating your levels of stress hormones and bringing on the onset of depression, irritability and a lack of ability to concentrate (Kreher and Schwartz, 2012)
  • Ability seems to decline: If you’re overtraining, you might notice that your performance declines or hits a plateau, and that your workouts seem more difficult. You might also see a reduction in reaction times, endurance ability and strength. This may also contribute to a lack of motivation to continue (Budgett, 2000).
  • Decreased wellness: You might also notice that you feel more rundown, become (more) prone to aches and sniffles, be unable to sleep, and might develop infections more easily. 

If you hit a point where you are overtraining, or have completely burnt out, then you might need to take a complete break from exercise. This can be anywhere from weeks to months of recovery dependent on injuries, but it’s always best to listen to your body! The earlier you recognise the signs of overtraining, the shorter the period of recovery before you can get back on track! 

Preventing overtraining with rest days: 

Scheduling regular rest days into your routine and sticking to them is one way to ensure that you’re looking after your body. Rest days are a critical part of the exercising process for a number of reasons, including: 

  • Allowing time for muscle repair: Rest is very important for muscle growth. The damage done to our muscles when we exercise is repaired when we’re resting, which helps to grow lean muscle mass. It also gives the body the time to restore its reserves of a compound called glycogen, which is needed during exercise. If these reserves aren’t replaced between workouts, then you may experience higher levels of muscle fatigue, which could cause injury. 
  • Improving performance: Resting increases energy and prevents fatigue, which can have a positive impact on motivation. This gives you and your body the right framework for consistent, successful workouts. 
  • Supports healthy sleep: Where overtraining can create disturbed sleep patterns and even insomnia, rest days can help to promote a healthy sleep cycle. Overtraining can force your body to produce too much cortisol and adrenaline - both hormones which are not linked to rest and recovery! Giving yourself a break can help your hormones rebalance themselves and give you a peaceful night’s sleep. 

Planning your rest days around your active ones can help to give you structure in your exercise regime, and prevent overtraining. It can also help to structure your diet and nutrition as well. We’ve written before about whether or not you can have protein shakes without working out

Having a protein shake on your rest days can help to increase your recovery by providing extra amino acids for recovery. If you use a protein shake whilst you're working out, then choose one with added BCAAs to promote faster and more efficient recovery. Vivo Life’s PERFORM protein powder contains 25g of protein and 6g of BCAAs per serving for exactly that purpose. So, combining your rest day with a protein shake designed to promote recovery will give you a boost of energy and get you ready for your next exercise day!

Sources:

Rchsd.org. (2019). Overtraining Syndrome/Burnout. [online] Available at: https://www.rchsd.org/programs-services/sports-medicine/conditions-treated/overtraining-syndromeburnout/.

Budgett, R. (2000). Redefining the overtraining syndrome as the unexplained underperformance syndrome. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 34(1), pp.67–68. doi:10.1136/bjsm.34.1.67.

Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic. (2018). 7 Signs That Exercise Is Actually Hurting Your Health. [online] Available at: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/7-signs-that-exercise-is-actually-hurting-your-health/.

Kreher, J.B. and Schwartz, J.B. (2012). Overtraining Syndrome. Sports Health: A Multidisciplinary Approach, [online] 4(2), pp.128–138. doi:10.1177/1941738111434406.