For the experienced exerciser, it’s apparent that improving fitness and body shape requires more than just regular workouts — it requires progressive increases in training. In other words, the body needs to be overloaded in order to see results. However, overloading too vigorously can lead to overtraining, a condition that negatively affects body and mind.
What is overtraining?
Overtraining, also called staleness or over-fatigue, occurs when exercise intensity, frequency or duration is excessive, and the exerciser doesn’t allow sufficient recovery in between workouts. Chronic insufficient recovery can actually do the body harm and set back training goals. In other words, overtraining is counterproductive.
Symptoms of overtraining
You may be exercising too much if you’re experiencing:
- Chronic fatigue
- Increased incidence of injuries
- Moodiness and irritability
- Appetite disorders
- Weight changes
- More colds or illnesses
- Pain in muscles and joints
- Decreased exercise performance
Experiencing two or more of these symptoms should raise a red flag. If so, it’s time to reassess your fitness program.
How to recover from overtraining
It’s a lot easier to prevent overtraining than recover from it. If you start experiencing any of the above symptoms, quickly change your training program so you don’t ultimately lose your hard-earned progress.
Time to rest
The best treatment for overtraining is rest and recovery. Consistently get at least seven hours of sleep each night. Review the amount of time you spend working out, and keep in mind that very few people can work out at high intensities every day. When you exercise too much, your body simply cannot keep up with the physical demands you are placing on it. Cut back on your workouts.
Taper your workouts
You may need a complete layoff if you’ve drastically overtrained, but modest overtraining can be treated successfully by tapering off your workouts over several weeks. Reduce your workout frequency to twice a week; this will maintain an approximate level of fitness and give your body a chance to recover.
Quality fuel for your body
Timing and composition of your meals is crucial for preventing overtraining as well as recovering from it. Aim to eat meals composed of protein and carbohydrates, with 60 to 70 percent of your diet coming from carbs. Eat two hours before exercising and immediately following exercise, as research has shown that your body is most responsive to energy storage within the first 30 minutes after your workout. There is a lesser response for the next 10 hours.
Your body functions optimally when it’s fully hydrated. A general recommendation is to consume at least 64 ounces of water each day. In hot weather you may need to increase this amount.
Leave your workout at the gym
Train hard when you’re in the gym, but when your workout is over, focus on other things in life. You don’t want to fall into the trap of dwelling on training.