The motto “More is not always better,” applies strongly to fitness training. Unfortunately, sometimes the more we push ourselves, the more we are at risk for overtraining.
There are several signs and symptoms of overtraining to be aware of. You may not experience all of these symptoms, but even a few is a good indication that it is time to take a rest day, review your workout plan and re-energize. You may experience any of the following: fatigue, frequent colds or sickness, injury, loss of appetite, insomnia or oversleeping, excessive muscle soreness, loss of interest in training, elevated resting heart rate.
The best cure is prevention, as they say, and there are many things that you can do to avoid overtraining. They are based on the fact that our bodies can only withstand so much training without getting some rest and recovery in return. If we want to be functioning in top form, we need to take some time and pay a little bit extra attention to our body’s recovery.
Ways to Avoid Overtraining
1) Work at an Appropriate Level
If you’re new to working out or to a particular form of exercise, ease into it! The best intentions can lead to too much too soon and have you injured, tired and forced to quit because your body isn’t ready for it. Slow and steady wins the race.
2) Get Adequate Rest
Your body recovers while it is resting, so it is vital that you get a good night’s sleep on a consistent basis. Set a bedtime for yourself and stick to it, getting your body used to falling asleep at an early time each night. If you need to, implement some techniques that will help you fall asleep. You can do relaxation exercises for your mind and body before going to bed, drink teas that help you sleep like chamomile, listen to relaxing music, or use some lavendar scented oils or candles. Don’t feel bad about taking naps, either! I use to get loss of productivity guilt when I took naps, but sometimes you need them!
3) Keep a Journal
Writing down how you are feeling throughout your preparation will help you be aware of any symptoms that appear. If you are constantly writing in your journal that you feel tired or you feel as though a cold is coming on, you will recognize these things as signs you are overtrained. Many times we simply ignore the symptoms until they lead to devastating results such as a serious injury or negative changes in physique and performance. Be honest with yourself and be aware!
4) Monitor your Resting Heart Rate
The best time to check your resting heart rate is first thing in the morning before you get out of bed. The first time you take it, the number is not that significant because we all have slightly different resting heart rates. It is the following heart rate checks that will let you know if something is wrong. If your resting heart rate rises significantly it is a sure sign that you are overtraining and need to ease up a little bit.
5) Plan your Workouts Carefully
Trying to fit in cardiovascular training and strength training can overwhelm your body. Try to space out your sessions to give your body time to recover and always take at least one full day of rest a week!
6) Take a 50% Week *
It is nearly impossible to work our bodies intensely for long periods of time without negative side effects. Taking a 50% week means cutting your weights down to 50% of what you would normally do, and taking it easy on the cardio and routine. This is better than taking a full rest week, but it will still give your body a bit of a rest. When you are excited and motivated for your fitness journey, the last thing that you want to do is stop training. On the other hand, if you end up overtraining, your body may force you to take time off or even keep you from workout out at all.
7) Drink tons of water!
Not only a great way to burn fat, improve your skin, and keep energized, water is necessary for all of your bodies functions, including recovering from workouts. It is important to drink as much as possible, especially when you are training hard, sweating a great deal, or training in the hot weather. Set a goal and keep track of how much you drink in a day to make sure that you are getting enough.
8) Take an anti-oxidant and other supportive supplements
Toxins are created in our bodies as a by-product from working out. Taking antioxidants such as vitamin c, alpah lipoic acid, grape seed, or grapefruit seed extract can help combat these unwanted toxins. Taking a multi-vitamin and mineral supplement will help your body stay healthy and functioning properly. Other supplements such as glutamine can be taken regularly after workouts and at night before bed to help the body recover from the stress of training.
9) Recovery Aids
Anything that helps you relax and stimulates circulation will help your body recover. If you have access to a hot tub, steam room or sauna, use them at every opportunity. If you don’t have access to any of these facilities, simply soaking in a bath with Epsom salts or other rejuvenating oils, salts etc will be helpful. Another great recovery technique is the “hot/cold” shower. Although not always the most fun, it’s a great way to boost your circulation and you body’s recovery powers. After a few minutes of hot shower water, turn it to cold (as cold as you can stand) for a few minutes, return to hot and repeat. It is extremely invigorating! Another great treatment for hard working muscles is massage. While professional massages will provide you with the most effective results, even an amateur massage helps circulation and helps stimulate recovery.
You know your body better than anyone else, so watch for signs and symptoms of overtraining. If your body is telling you it’s time to ease up a little, you better listen or it will use harsher means of telling you in the form of sickness and injury. Be aware how your body is feeling throughout your training so that nothing holds you back from reaching your goals!
*I will be following up this post with one on Periodization, how to plan out your workouts to be the safest and most effective for your body