Monday, July 9, 2012

Are You Overtraining?

It is good to push yourself beyond your limit during exercise to build and improve your athletic performance.  However, doing so without adequate rest and recovery can result in chronic fatigue - overtraining.

I see this happen to a lot of people who start going to the gym as soon as a new year begins - for their new years resolutions.  They push themselves very hard for a few days or even weeks, then you never see them come back.  They either go back to their old habits and take the gym out of the equation, or they overtrain initially and literally become too tired to actually go to the gym.


I experience overtraining with running.  I love it so much that I started doing it every single day last year.  Long, long runs - every single day (7 to 12 miles a day).  I would push myself to run longer than I did the previous day, thinking that I can do better since it's a new day.  When I felt that I couldn't run the distance, I would do a shorted run (5 miles) on hills.  My town is situated on a huge hill, so finding hills is not a problem - avoiding them is.

After about a month of this intense training, I noticed I was just getting worse and worse at running.  I was out of breath from just starting a light jog, my joints were starting to hurt, and I was just tired all throughout the day, too exhausted to do normal every day activities.  I had a hard time vacuuming my apartment!

Then in December I got really sick.  I was diagnosed with mono for the second time!  I was stuck in bed for a month and a half.  I really think this was a way for my body to tell me that I was overtraining it, and that I need to take it easy, build up slowly, and incorporate some recovery days into my training.

After I recovered from mono - I did just that.  Partially because I couldn't walk a mile without getting out of breath, but also because I didn't want to get sick like that again.  Today I'm back to where I was last year in running distance - but I built this up very slowly.  I am also cross training (HIIT workouts, TRX, weights, and other forms of cardio).  If I do wake up and feel exhausted, I have an active recovery workout day (a light walk, yoga, and stretching).


The amount of exercise before overtraining varies on each individual person and their fitness level.  What was considered overtraining for me (50+ miles a week) is easy training for an olympic runner.
Some signs that you might be overtraining are:

  • You feel exhausted instead of energized after your workout.
    • One of the best things of a workout is the post workout feeling of energy, health, and wellness.  If that feeling is replaced by an uncomfortable, exhausted feeling - your body is trying to tell you something.
  • You are repeatedly not able to complete your normal workouts.
    • You're getting weaker, slower, and losing your endurance.
  • You're training extremely hard every day.
    • It's good to incorporate a few days of extreme training - such as HIIT or heavy weightlifting.  Doing this every day does not allow your body to recover properly, and you end up wearing it out.
  • You're losing your leanness - even with more exercise!
    • Working out too much can deteriorate your muscle tissue.  Too much cortisol increases insulin resistance and fat deposits (especially around the stomach area).  So if you're noticing that you're definition is fading, even though you're working out harder and harder everyday - you may be overtraining.
  • You're getting sick more often.
    • Your immune system may be suffering as a result of overtraining.  
  • Persistent muscle soreness
  • Increased injuries
  • Loss of motivation
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Elevated resting heart rate
  • Irritability

To get results from your training routing, your body needs an adequate amount of rest.  If your training exceeds the rest period, your performance will decline.  Allow yourself to take a break from time to time.  Learn to listen to your body.  With adequate rest, your body will come back stronger than before.


  • Take a break from your training routine and allow time for your body to recover.  
    • Otherwise, you're doing more harm than good for your body.
  • Deep tissue and sports massages.  
    • You can also use a foam roller and roll out the affected muscles.
  • Temperature contrast therapy.
    • Hot & cold showers, ice baths, or my favorite - sauna and jumping in a cold pool.
    • This stimulates your immune system, improved circulation, and encourages blood flow.
  • Reduce the volume and intensity of your training.  
  • Make sure you are getting enough calories throughout the day - to compensate for your training.
    • Just make sure they are coming from nutrient rich foods, not junk.
  • Get enough sleep!
    • This is when your body repairs itself and recovers.

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