More isn’t always better when it comes to working out. There really can be too much of a good thing. While regular exercise is a critical component to a healthy lifestyle, it is possible to overdo it, leading to unhealthy results. Overtraining, or Overtraining Syndrome (OTS), characterized as excessive exercise without adequate rest and recovery, can occur in any sport. And while there’s no clear test to determine overtraining, there are some key signs that can signal the need for a break.
SIGNS OF OVERTRAINING
Here’s what to watch for if you suspect that you or someone you love is overtraining.
Elevated Resting Heart Rate
An elevated resting heart rate is one of the clearest signs of overtraining. It can also be an early indicator of illness, so anytime you notice an increase in your resting heart rate, you should take a break from training. In order to determine whether your resting heart rate is elevated, you’ll need to have a baseline reading. To get this, simply take your pulse after waking up, before getting out of bed. Press two fingers on the inside of your wrist, closer to your thumb. When you feel your pulse, count the beats in 15 seconds and multiply by four. The number of beats per minute is your resting heart rate. According to the American Heart Association, the normal range is 60-100 beats per minute, although many athletes have lower resting heart rates (down to 40 or even lower). Overtraining can elevate your resting heart rate by 10-15 beats per minute.
Wiped out from hard training, yet unable to fall asleep? You might be overtraining. Studies like this one show that insomnia is among the most common signs of overtraining. If you’re experiencing sleeplessness during periods of intense training, you probably need a break. The good news is that rest is the best way to recover from fatigue. Simply take a few days off to allow your hormones and central nervous system to get back into balance and get back to restful sleep.
Regular training helps enhance your health and boost your immune system. But pushing too hard, too often can have the opposite effect, suppressing your immune system and making you more susceptible to illness. If you get sick frequently, without other obvious causes such as poor diet, stress, or lack of sleep, you may be in an overtrained state.
In addition to your physical well-being, overtraining can impact your emotional state. If you or your training partner lack your usual motivation, feel depressed, or become easily irritable, overtraining could be to blame. Take a break from training to refresh physically and mentally before returning with renewed energy and enthusiasm.
Prolonged Muscle Soreness
It’s normal to be sore for a few days after a workout—especially when you’re new to working out, doing strength training, or trying a new type of activity. But if you still feel sore three or four days later, you may be overtraining. In this case, your muscles are not recovering properly and need additional rest. Another important way to enhance muscle recovery during regular training and avoid overtraining is with proper protein intake. Use a BlenderBottle® shaker to mix up a high-quality protein shake right after any intense training session. Make this a regular practice in order to help keep your recovery on track.
Poor performance is another of the most common signs of overtraining. Sure, you may have an off day here or there, but if you experience a few days in a row where you lack your usual speed or strength, your body needs a rest. Keep a training journal to track your workouts and make note of your progress and results, as well as how you feel each day. If you notice a pattern of lackluster performance, schedule a few days off.
Have a nagging injury that keeps coming back? You might be overtraining. When you overtrain, you work out in a weakened state because your body doesn’t recover properly between sessions. It’s easy to understand how this can increase your chance of injury, or prevent old injuries from healing completely. If you suspect overtraining, be sure to give your body a break.
HOW TO PREVENT OVERTRAINING
Now that you know the most common signs of overtraining, it’s worth reiterating the steps you can take to prevent overtraining in the first place, and how to get back on track if you do go over the line. Here are a few simple things that every athlete should do to stay on top of their fitness and overall health:
- Take your resting heart rate. This baseline measurement will help you gauge changes that may signal overtraining or illness.
- Listen to your body. If something feels off—such as extreme fatigue, prolonged muscle soreness, or inability to sleep—it’s time for a break.
- Be aware of your emotions. If you experience unusual irritability, moodiness, or depression, take some time off from training.
- Keep a training journal. There’s no better way to track your physical fitness and emotional state, and to quickly notice the warning signs of overtraining.
- Schedule recovery time. Whether it’s a day or two off each week, or a lower intensity week every three to four weeks, time off or easy active recovery workouts are a critical part of a healthy training program.
- Get plenty of sleep. The most important recovery tool is absolutely free—sleep! Your body repairs itself as you sleep, so if you don’t get enough shuteye you’ll put your health at risk.
- Focus on healthy nutrition. As an athlete, you need plenty of high-quality protein to aid muscle recovery. Keep a BlenderBottle® shaker in your gym bag so that you’ll have a post-workout protein shake ready and waiting as soon as your workout ends.
For most athletes, overtraining can be addressed by following the above guidelines and taking additional rest when you’ve pushed too hard. If you’ve taken time off and are still struggling with physical or emotional symptoms, be sure to consult with your health care provider to rule out other underlying causes.
Have any additional tips to steer clear of overtraining? Share your advice and experience in the comments below.