ARE YOU EXPERIENCING THESE 4 SIGNS OF OVERTRAINING?
Exercise can reduce stress, give an outlet for negative emotion, boost confidence, lift your mood and improve your sleep — all useful tools whether you are looking to de-stress, work through chronic pain, build self-confidence, or on the road to recovery. However, if you do too much exercise, you can see the opposite effect.
To make sure you don’t overdo it, you need to be aware of the symptoms of overtraining. Here are four key signs to look out for.
Change in Mood
Depressed mood and irritability are perhaps the most common side effects of overtraining. One study published in the International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology tracked the mood of 58 swimmers before, during and after the competitive swimming season. The researchers found that overtraining caused mood disturbances, but importantly, these mood problems went away when the swimmers reduced their training. Overtraining is thought to influence mood by interfering with certain chemicals in the brain — and some of these chemicals are involved in recovery from substance abuse. So if you’re in recovery, it’s especially important not to overtrain.
Excessive Muscle Soreness
Physical exercise is going to cause soreness — there’s no getting around that. The soreness caused by a single training session usually starts within 24-48 hours, and subsides 1-3 days later. If soreness lasts longer than this, you’re probably not just a little sore, you probably overdid it. Don’t worry if you experience extended soreness once in a while — just take some extra rest days before getting back into it. But if you constantly feel soreness that won’t go away, take a week or two off and start again afterward with a less intensive routine.
Increased Resting Heart Rate
When you wake up in the morning, before you get out of bed, count your pulse for 60 seconds — this is your resting heart rate. Keep a notepad next to your bed to keep a log of this. As you exercise, your resting heart rate should decrease slowly and gradually. There will be some daily variation — some ups and down depending on things like how well you slept, caffeine consumption, certain medication you might be taking and so on. But the general trend should be downward. If you see an increase that lasts for a longer period of time – seven beats per minute higher than usual is a good gauge – you might be overtraining. Try cutting back on the workouts and see if that helps.
Fatigue and Poor Sleep
You’d think that overexerting yourself in the gym would lead to more sleep, but this isn’t the case. One study described by Rachel Sturtz in the Huffington Post found that while overtrained cyclists did spend more time in bed — they spent less time actually sleeping! Overtraining makes you feel tired, like you want to sleep, but you can’t actually manage it. This is thought to be due to changes in your hormone levels, particularly higher levels of cortisol, commonly known as the “stress hormone.” Sleep is crucial to exercise recovery as well as to your general physical and mental health. If you have trouble sleeping, take a few rest days and see if it improves.
Look for Patterns
Don’t worry if you experience these signs occasionally. It’s normal to have variations in mood, the occasional night of poor sleep, or variations in your heart rate in your normal life. However, if these symptoms persist for a week or more, or if you experience more than one of them, consider taking more rest days — or even a full week off. If this doesn’t help, ask your doctor for advice on what to try next.