Overtraining: the symptoms and how to recover
Effective exercise needs a balance of focussed effort and recovery. If you are working hard towards a big race or trying to significantly increase your running distance, this balance might be disrupted and you might be at risk of overtraining.
In this blog we look at signs of overtraining, what you can do to recover and get back on track.
Overtraining occurs when you exceed your body’s ability to recover from strenuous training. Your body is unique and you will respond differently to a training programme, from the next person. It is not just sports stars and professional athletes who are at risk of overtraining and so it is important to be able to recognise the symptoms.
Overtraining signs can be both physical and mental as it affects your inner body, but also your stress hormones, such as cortisol. Overtraining symptoms can include the following signs:
Is your regular activity seeming harder? Are your times getting slower? If your progress has halted your overtraining means that your muscles are not getting the chance to repair before you exert them again.
Increased physical fatigue
That feeling of heavy legs is normal after a hard training session, but if it just never goes away you are probably overtraining.
Persistent muscle pain
If you still have muscle pain more than 72 hours after training it is a sign that your muscles are not repairing. In the end this can lead to loss of your muscle mass, more than gaining muscles.
From relatively mild strains to stress fractures, overtraining can result in the injury occurring, or in one failing to heal and worsening as you do more.
Are you getting every cold that is going around? Overtraining may be having a negative impact on your immune system.
Change in appetite
Stress on your body from overtraining can affect your appetite and you might notice that you are struggling to finish meals.
Symptoms of overtraining can also be mental and can include agitation, moodiness and stress.
You might be feeling physically exhausted but not able to get the quality sleep which is vital for your body to repair and your muscles mass to grow.
Take a few moments each day to assess how you feel mentally and physically; are you looking forward to your workout, are you excited about your goal, do your energy levels feel good? If you start to answer no to these questions on a regular basis, you need to take action to avoid more significant symptoms of overtraining.
Then make sure you really understand your body and to be able to spot changes fast. Regular monitoring with a Tanita body composition scale like the Tanita RD-545 will make sure you understand your weight, muscle tone and hydration, as losing weight, a reduction in muscle mass and low hydration can all be a signal of overtraining.
Overtraining recovery tips
If you are noticing several of the overtraining signs listed above, you need to start focussing on your recovery and rest, as well as pushing yourself in your training. Recovery from overtraining can take days to months.
- Start by talking it through with your healthcare professional, GP or personal trainer
This will make sure that overtraining is responsible for the symptoms you are experiencing
It sounds easy but accepting that you need to rest is hard to do. However, it is essential if you are going to be able to carry on with your training. R. Budgett writing in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests 3 – 5 weeks rest and you should certainly hang up your running gear until your appetite and sleep patterns return to normal
- Reassess your goals and recalibrate your training programme to include more time to recover between workouts
Don’t give up on your goal but make sure that you are able to reach it in a safe and healthy way which will have long-term benefits
- Focus on your diet
Food is the fuel for your exercise so take some time to plan a varied, nutritious, diet
- Improve your hydration levels
Water is essential for effective muscle function so use this time to build a healthy hydration habit!
- Treat yourself to a massage
A deep tissue massage will help to relieve muscle tension and promote recovery
- Do gentle exercise
it is still important to stay active during your recovery and gentle exercise such as restorative yoga can really help
Check out our Train with Tanita tips so that when you resume your training you will be on the right track
Hopefully having this understanding of the signs of overtraining will help to make sure that you can avoid it and work safely towards your fitness goals.