What are some of the signs of overtraining and why might you want to look out for them? If you have been successfully exercising for a long time you likely have a good routine, get enough rest and fuel yourself appropriately in order to compensate for the output. But, if you want to increase the amount of training you’re doing, start up a new routine, change things up or are getting back into exercising after lockdown you will want to look out for the signs of overtraining.
Essentially, these signs warn you that something isn’t quite right with your balance of training and recovery which could lead to injury or time off from training. The good news is that they can all be easily fixed with small changes to prevent you from getting hurt.
The information here is not designed to be a one size fits all guide and should not be used to treat or diagnose your own experiences. As always, you should make sure to consult a GP if you have any concerns.
What is overtraining?
Firstly, what is overtraining? We need to answer this so you can know why you should look out for it. Simply put, you can have too much of a good thing. Overtraining means you are exercising too much for the rest time you’re allowing yourself or you have other lifestyle factors limiting your recovery. After a certain point, exercise can become harmful and eventually lead to an increased chance of injury, extreme fatigue and loss of fitness. Overtraining is essentially exercising burnout.
Overtraining can be associated with any type of exercise. It can also be thought of as a scale. One day of accidental overtraining won’t be too much of a problem given appropriate rest time, but frequent or chronic overtraining can be damaging. We’ve spoken about intuitive training before, and this is the kind of thing you can use to adjust to daily changes and avoid accidentally overdoing it.
Feeling sore, a little tired or even stiff after a workout is totally normal and not something to worry about. These are typically resolved in a few hours or days with proper rest and recovery and you’ll likely experience them again next time you try something new. Overtraining, however, can present a wider variety of symptoms and have many longer-lasting effects, some of which won’t be noticeable right away. We can split these warning signs into two categories: exercise-related and wellbeing related. So, let’s discuss a few of these in more detail:
Persistent muscle pain or injury
Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) after a workout is completely normal, especially if you’ve been pushing harder or have tried something new. How do we know when we’ve gone too far? The clearest answer is injury. If you’ve hurt yourself even though your form was good then chances are it’s a sign of overtraining. Take note of your recovery time, if you feel better at your normal rate then just be careful next time you do that exercise but if you keep getting injured and it just won’t heal, you may need to take a longer break to recover. Take the time to rest and focus on other body parts if you can continue to train.
You might also find this muscle pain paired with extreme fatigue, another sign of overtraining.
Grumpy, angry, short-tempered when you’re not normally? Can’t figure out where this is coming from? If you don’t have other stresses that are contributing to your mood then this too can be a sign of overtraining. The stress exercise puts on your body affects your hormone levels, so too much of a good thing can cause an imbalance that results in mood changes.
Performance will fluctuate over time, there are plenty of reasons why you might not be on top of your game one day and we can’t expect to hit new personal bests every session. But a clear sign of overtraining is lack of improvement despite increased training frequency or volume. If you’re noticing a loss of agility, strength or endurance when training then you have likely pushed yourself too far.
Loss of appetite
This one is a double whammy as you need to fuel yourself for your workouts and recovery! Generally, more training means you’ll be more hungry but again hormone imbalances caused by overtraining can result in a loss of appetite instead.
Not enjoying your workouts
Getting bored, finding your regular workouts too much effort and wanting to quit while training can all be signs of overtraining. While sometimes it can be hard to motivate yourself to get to the gym, if you’re miserable during your session and finding even usually easy things a terrible effort then you might need to take a step back for a short while. A really clear sign of this symptom is your heart rate. If it’s staying high throughout the day, or taking longer than normal to return to your resting rate then you might be suffering from overtraining.
Now one of these alone might be caused by something else so it’s important to consider all factors that play a part in your physical and mental health. They’re also somewhat subjective and you may not notice or choose to ignore symptoms you consider normal or think are not so bad. There are also many more symptoms that come into play when you experience overtraining so while these are some of the biggest ones, you might experience other signs as well. This is why things like tracking and doing your best to be realistic about the way you feel are so important.
In future articles, we will be discussing how you can recover from overtraining and get back into a gym routine you enjoy. Don’t forget to sign up to our blog’s mailing list and make sure you’re on AF Connect Online to get all our latest updates. If you’d like even more regular health, fitness and exercise inspiration then follow us on Facebook or Instagram.