Overtraining: There is such a thing as too much of a good thing

Posted on November 24, 2009. Filed under: athletic training, beauty, body weight, caloric intake, calories, clean eating, diet, exercise, fat loss, fitness, food, health, lifting, overtraining, running, weight lifting, weight loss, weight training, workout, yoga |

A subject that I have given great thought to, and done a lot of reading on lately is overtraining. Overtraining is a syndrome in which a person trains too intensely and/or too often so that the body does not have enough time to recover between workouts. This happens frequently when someone is training for a specific event, game or competition but is not limited to athletes. Conditioning requires a balance in preparatory activity and rest because it is necessary for the muscles to repair themselves by given rest. There are many physiological as well as psychological warning signs or symptoms of overtraining syndrome. The following are some of the physiological signs:
– Lack of energy/ feelings of lethargy
– Soreness and muscle/ joint pain
– Increased injuries
– Decreased immunity to sickness
– Decreased appetite
– Insatiable thirst
– Insomnia
– Unwanted weight loss
– Headaches
– Insomnia
– Decrease in training capabilities
– Elevated heart rate
– Hormonal changes (which may also create changes in menstruation)

And the following are some of the psychological signs:
– Irritability
– Depression
– Loss of enthusiasm for sport/ fitness routine
– A compulsive need to exercise

That isn’t to say that just because you worked out 5 times last week and this week you don’t really feel like working out as much and you feel kind of sick and irritable, you have overtraining syndrome. If you find that you’ve been working out 6 or 7 times a week for the last 8 months and suddenly you realize you’re on a plateau and you are just finding you have less of a desire to continue working towards your goal, or towards training for that triathlon, and you are just always tired and sore and irritable because you feel like all you do is work out, then overtraining might be something to look further into.

One way to test the physiological signs of overtraining is by the orthostatic heart rate test, developed by Heikki Rusko while working with cross country skiers. To obtain this measurement:

1. Lay down and rest comfortably for 10 minutes the same time each day (morning is best).

2. At the end of 10 minutes, record your heart rate in beats per minute.

3. Then stand up

4. After 15 seconds, take a second heart rate in beats per minute.

5. After 90 seconds, take a third heart rate in beats per minute.

6. After 120 seconds, take a fourth heart rate in beats per minute.

Well rested athletes will show a consistent heart rate between measurements, but Rusko found a marked increase (10 beats/minutes or more) in the 120 second-post-standing measurement of athletes on the verge of overtraining. Such a change may indicate that you have not recovered from a previous workout, are fatigued, or otherwise stressed and it may be helpful to reduce training or rest another day before performing another workout.

If you think you may be a likely candidate, one of the first things that professionals recommend is rest. As hard as it may be, stay out of the gym for 24 – 48 hours. Let your muscles repair themselves. You will feel much better after you have rested and caught up on well deserved sleep. Hopefully your desire to get back into the gym and kick butt will recover during that time off as well. Get a sports massage. Make sure you are getting the proper amount of nutrients for the amount of exercise you do each day. Continue back with your training but periodize your workouts according to what is necessary. Cut back on frequency and intensity if necessary. The further into overtraining you get, the more likely you are to become sick or sustain an injury. And while it’s easy to think that exercise is always good for you, there is such a thing as getting too much of a good thing.

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