Working out and exercising is great, but you can have too much of a good thing. When overtraining issues start to creep up on you, you’ve definitely done too much. Overtraining issues range from simply feeling tired, to down and out fatigue, physical injury and even depression and more serious psychological issues. Ideally, you can recognize overtraining symptoms early and nip them in the bud.
What Is Overtraining?
Overtraining is basically a level of athletic training where your performance begins to decrease rather than increase. This is normally seen with people performing at a very high level athletically.
For example, if you’ve been lifting weights 3 times a week and aren’t making progress, and then you increase your workouts to 4 times a week to blast through your plateau and then you actually start getting weaker, that would be a textbook example of overtraining. Simply put, it’s too much stress on your body and mind, too often.
Physically, overtraining leads to injuries. If you’re tired and regressing in whatever sport you do, you’re on track to injure yourself. Whether it’s a repetitive stress injury or an acute injury (e.g. spraining your ankle or twisting your knee), neither is fun to deal with.
Often, there is a mindset of just, “pushing through the pain and don’t let little aches and pains hold you back!” But telling when those aches and pain are serious enough that you should take some time off is very difficult.
Determining how physically rundown you are is largely a matter of experience. But be careful because you don’t want to give yourself a permanent injury that will really take you out of action.
Mentally, overtraining means just becoming fatigued. More than just tired, you’re bored, worn-out, drained and empty, either overall with life or your specific sport. Not wanting to go to one practice is one thing, but getting sick of your sport and just not wanting to go at all, is another entirely.
Psychologically getting tired and worn out is particularly insidious. It’s often hard to notice when it’s coming on and hardened athletes will just plow through it, like any other obstacle.
But as time goes on, it slowly starts eating away at you, your motivation, and eventually you have days and even weeks in a row where you just don’t want to play your sport anymore. It might even become full-blown depression in its own right.
Curing Overtraining: Time Off & Having Fun
What’s the cure for overtraining? Taking a break from it all. Whether it’s a vacation, time off from practicing, or simply doing something else, take some time off. A rest can be the most helpful thing in the world for getting back on your feet and reorienting towards what you really want to do.
Having fun also helps. Not officially mandated ‘fun’ activities for cross training, but perhaps something you haven’t done in a while because it’s, “Just fun,” or, “A waste of time!” Wasting time can take your mind off your troubles and actually save you a lot of angst. So, waste some time and just have some fun!
Play some video games, fly a kite, have a fancy dinner with that special someone or go to new place where you’ve never been. Just try to feel a bit like a kid again. Life isn’t just about getting ahead in your sport or the rat race, it’s about enjoying what you’re doing. So, remember to enjoy yourself and take some time off to do something utterly frivolous.