Did you know that there are a lot of people in the gym who are training to the point where they are actually getting weaker? How can this be? The answer is very simple: it’s called overtraining!
Overtraining is a common problem in bodybuilding and general weight training. It occurs when the volume and intensity of the exercise exceeds an individual’s recovery capacity. When overtraining sets in, progress starts to plateau and strength may actually decrease along with a decrease in muscle size.
Since New Years, Jennifer has found her fitness grove. She said farewell to her favorite late night TV shows and tasty snacks. In fact, Jennifer has done a complete lifestyle change choosing foods that are in their natural state and completely unprocessed.
Standing 5’5″ and weighing 155 pounds, Jennifer has already lost 10 pounds of body fat. Her mind is focused on reaching her goal weight of 125 pounds. To help her reach her goal, Jennifer is training two days on and one day off. She is in and out of the gym in about an hour. This training split allows plenty of time for her body to rest. Jennifer is feeling great!
Fast forward six months. Jennifer is not feeling so hot now. It’s great that she has attained her goal of reaching 125 pounds, but as what cost? This past month people have complimented her on how fit she looks, but they also commented that she looks very tired and worn down. Her friends are concerned about her even though she physically looks great.
Jennifer’s training program has increased to six days week of weight training and cardio. On Sundays, she only does cardio and jogs around 3-4 miles. Each morning she sets her alarm an hour early to make time for her 60 minute run before work. Once her work day is over, she returns to the gym for 60 minutes of weights and another 60 minutes of cardio.
Though she is tired and has little interest in spending time with friends, she always makes time for her fitness routine. What fitness means to Jennifer today is much different from three months ago. The bottom line is that Jennifer is working out too much and most likely overtraining. Along with persistent fatigue and a loss of interest in her friends, she may be also be experiencing common symptoms of overtraining.
Signs and Symptoms of Overtraining
- Persistent muscle soreness
- Elevated resting heart rate
- Increased susceptibility to infections
- Increased incidence of injuries
- Loss of motivation
- Decreased appetite
- Weight loss
Experiencing a loss of interest in what you once felt passionate about is never fun. So, what causes overtraining? To see improvement in building strength and muscle mass, it’s critical to rest and recover properly. The rest period following hard training is a very important process which takes 24-48 hours to complete. By skimping on rest, complete recovery of the damaged muscle fibers cannot occur. If the amount of training continues to exceed the rest period provided, the individual’s performance will plateau and decline. If Jennifer continues to neglect the recovery her body needs, she will get weaker and may experience injuries.
Other physical and psychological stressors can compound the rate at which a person may experience overtraining issues. These include:
- Jet Leg
- Ongoing Illness
- Working Too Much
- Poor Nutrition
Bodybuilders and other fitness enthusiasts who exercise intensely while limiting their food intake often find themselves in an overtraining state. Although you may be extremely focused and feel that you need to maintain the intensity at which you train, I urge you to consider applying one or more of these solutions below. Your gains will flourish and your family and friends will be relieved and thankful!
Solutions for Overtraining:
#1. Take a Break from Training To Allow Adequate Time for Recovery
If you’ve been feeling tired and worn out from training, set aside a much-needed break to fully recover. Some people allow one week away from the gym to optimally revitalize their bodies and also their minds. When they return to training they are refreshed, have more focus and enjoy the process much better.
#2. Reduce The Volume and/or The Intensity of Your Training
If you always do five sets for each exercise, why not do just two or three sets and decrease the weight a little so you can really focus your attention on your form and technique? Strengthen the mind-to-muscle connection by tuning into the exercise at hand with very slow repetitions.
#3. Get a Deep Tissue or Sports Massage
Getting a massage is one of the most effective therapies for releasing muscle tension and restoring balance to the musculoskeletal system. Getting regular massages may help fitness enthusiasts prevent injuries which might otherwise could be caused by overuse. A constant build-up of tension in the muscles from regular activity may lead to overdo stress on joints, ligaments, tendons, as well as the muscles themselves.
#4. Self Massaging The Affected Muscles
Massaging yourself with either your hands or a massage product will help with pain relief and can be targeted to the hamstrings, calves, knees, quads, shoulders, back and any other muscle group. People who are stiff and inflexible are prone to injuries and they will benefit greatly from a massage since it elongates the muscles and also feels amazing!
#5. Temperature Contrast Therapy
This includes ice baths, hot showers, cold showers and many other forms. This therapy uses the body’s reaction to hot and cold stimuli. The nerves carry impulses felt at the skin deeper into the body where they can stimulate the immune system, improve circulation and digestion, influence the production of stress hormones, encourage blood flow and decrease pain sensitivity.
#6. Ensure Calorie Intake Matches Expenditure
When someone is in an overtrained state, the body may be depleted of various nutrients. To assist in the process of recovery, it’s crucial to ensure that a diet high enough in overall calories with clean carbohydrates, lean proteins and healthy fats is always met. Carbohydrates will provide energy for hard workouts, the protein will help rebuild your muscles and consuming healthy fats will provide better brain function and many other benefits.
#7. Address Vitamin Deficiencies with Nutritional Supplements
It is essential to get key vitamins and minerals directly from whole foods but when overtraining is a concern, taking specific nutritional supplements is beneficial. Supplements should be taken in addition to meals and some should also be taken with meals to ensure proper absorption.
Common Vitamin Deficiencies:
- Vitamin A (Beta-Carotene)
- Vitamin B Complex
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
- Folic Acid.
Common Mineral Deficiencies:
- Chromium (GTF)
- * Essential mineral for maintaining electrolyte balance
#8. Your Workout Routine Should Target Different Muscles on Different Days
Once you have rested enough for your body to recover from overtraining, be smart and plan your training split ahead of time. This will help to prevent overtraining issues from occurring again. Allow at least 4 days of rest between training a certain body part again and always take at least one day of rest from training each week (Sundays always work great).
Training toward a goal can be very rewarding but you need to be smart about it. When you start seeing great results it’s hard to slow down and take a rest from training at such a high intensity level. However, it’s absolutely critical to allow yourself to take a break from time to time and always listen to your body. You build muscle when you’re resting – not when you’re training – so allow your body adequate time to fully recover and rebuild so you can come back bigger and stronger!