Can you hit it too hard? 10 signs & symptoms of overtraining

   date: 2012-12-31 time: 16:04:00
FOR ALL FIT FREAKS! Are you taking enough time OFF?
Recovery is just as important as what you do IN the gym. But no matter how much we ‘know’ this, many people consistently spend hours and hours in the gym because it “feels” right. It’s psychological. A dependence. Fitness CAN be addictive, but it’s important that we learn how to overcome these psychological barriers to live happier, healthier and injury free lives. Outside of the gym.
Recovery is THE reason we get fitter and stronger. It’s during this time that your muscles rebuild stronger, where your body puts your workout to use and where you’ll reap the benefits. I like to think of it as making bread. You can knead the dough as much as you like, but unless you STOP and let it rise, your bread is gonna SUCK. The kneading is important, but the “rising” on it’s own is what makes the bread awesome. Rest is your ‘rising’ time.
While SOME activity is better than NONE, TOO MUCH activity can be worse than none at all. Heart problems, insomnia, illness, weight gain, injury, depression: all symptoms and consequences of hitting it too hard and too often at the gym. 
SIGNS OF OVERTRAINING (and/or fitness addiction):
      A decrease in performance. If you’re training hard and you notice that you just aren’t able to do what you know you CAN DO (having to reduce your weights, not being able to finish a set, needing to take more breaks etc), it might be a sign that your muscles have not gotten enough recovery time. 
      Problems sleeping, decrease in overall energy, mood swings etc. Workouts generally should BOOST your energy and mood. If the days seem ‘harder’ it might be a sign you need to take a step back. Depression can be a symptom of overtraining as well.
      Feeling that unless your workout is 2 hours long, it doesn’t count. The truth is, there is ONLY so much you can push your body. After a certain amount of time, it releases chemicals and begins processes to minimize damage… NOT to help you get stronger, fitter or better. 2 hours a day in the gym is too much. Psychologically, this is a barrier a lot of people get stuck behind. Often, beginners are encouraged to workout for long periods of time, but at a VERY LOW intensity. The higher the intensity, the shorter your workout can be. Work to limit your workouts to an hour or less, take less breaks, and boost your intensity instead.
      You blow off friends, family, work, responsibilities etc. in order to workout. Fitness is supposed to ENHANCE our lives… not BE our lives. What’s the good in having a body that does more if you’re not using it to do the things you love? If you’re constantly avoiding the things you need to do in order to fit in your workouts, try to plan a bit better and work on time management. Priorities please!
      You push through pain and illness in order to sweat. Your #1 responsibility is to TAKE CARE of your body. And that includes giving it time to heal. Consistently not taking that time can have negative consequences on your body and may be a sign you need to approach things differently. 
      You’re gaining or maintaining body fat… when you ‘should’ be losing. While it’s normal to have to tweak your routine to keep results coming, if you start holding on to more body fat, it could be a sign your body has gone into survival mode. Usually there’s a decrease in muscle as well (it’s what your body is using for fuel instead of fat). Our bodies need fat to survive, and if it feels like you’re tapping into the supply to hard or too fast, it will give the “order” to use muscle instead to save it’s fat stores. When our bodies feel “safe” they readily give up fat as energy: they know you’re taking care of things. If you’re pushing hard, eating clean and getting nowhere, a break may be in order. 
      You’re HIITING, lifting, pushing beyond or sprinting each and every day. It’s good to have the occasional blow out at the gym, but training this intensely every single day gives your body no time to HEAL (and no time doesn't give you the results you’re looking for). It may feel better to your ego, but unless you’re Wolverine, you should alternate intense workouts with moderate ones, and take rest days when possible. Being fit enough to run 10 miles a day doesn’t mean you SHOULD. 
      You’re constantly sore/in pain. Some people are never sore. Others are sore more often (like ME). But there’s a difference between the kind of sore you can manage, and the kind of sore that makes it impossible to put on your shirt and walk up stairs. Being THAT sore EVERYDAY? Not good. Scale back and take a few recovery days. 
      You’re always SICK. More than usual. Taking a few extra days/weeks off can help your body heal more than just your muscles. 
      Heart palpitations or increased heart rate AT REST. Generally, the more fit you are, the lower your resting heart rate: your heart doesn’t have to work as hard because it’s more efficient and strong. But if it starts having to work harder, i.e. beat more, or if it’s beats become irregular, it may be a sign you need to cut back. And maybe see a doctor.
Your body WILL give out: energy is not infinite. Make sure you’re taking steps to prevent overtraining and/or address fitness addiction before it gets out of hand… or before your body puts a stop to it for you. Engaging your body in EASIER activities on your “rest days” can help overtrainers deal with not being in the gym. If you find it hard to stay away from the gym, try taking 30-60 minutes to do something “easy” instead. 
  • Walking
  • Hikes (easy)
  • Easy yoga
  • Extended stretching (30-45 minutes of stretches)
  • Cycling
  • Frisbee
  • Sex
  • Massages
  • Hanging with friends
  • Crafts
  • Shopping

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