5 Signs You May be Overtraining

You’re gaining weight..in a bad way.

No matter how hard you exercise, it seems as if your body has a different plan. Fat gain is not that uncommon when you’re overtrained due to increased levels of cortisol, a chemical that is released in your body when you are stressed out. Other hormonal things may be going on as well, such as increased or decreased testosterone levels, etc.

Solution? If you’re concerned about recent weight gain, make sure you speak to your doctor. However, chances are that all you need is a little more rest and a little less training.

You’re not sleeping well at night.

When you train to hard or too often, it almost always directly correlates with how well you sleep. Sure, you may be wiped out from a hard workout and fall fast asleep, but this doesn’t mean that you’ll get a “good night’s rest”. Often, overtrained athletes will experience restlessness while trying to sleep, which can lead to an unpleasant (and sometimes dangerous) cycle of continuing to work out on very little rest- something that almost inevitably leads to injury.

Solution? Get back on track with your sleep by taking a few days off from exercising. If you normally run 5 days a week, try running 1 or 2 nonconsecutive days at a light, short pace. Give your body a break.

You’re binge eating or becoming obsessive about food.

Ortherexia nervosa is defined as the preoccupation with eating healthy or clean foods. Running or exercising because you genuinely enjoy looking and feeling fit is great. However, it is not uncommon for hardcore runners and exercise enthusiasts to take things to the next level when it comes to diet. Sure, we all want to look ‘ripped’ and eating goes hand in hand with exercise…but where do we draw the line? Not allowing yourself to have a slice of cake or a handful of cookies is a bit extreme and often unnecessary.

Solution? Binge eating because you’re not allowing yourself to enjoy the things you want is dangerous and can lead to eating disorders fairly quickly. Instead, learn to continue to enjoy the foods that you like by simply controlling the portion size. In other words, there’s no reason to feel guilty about enjoying some sweets once in a while…as long as you’re not overdoing it every day!

You’re not gaining any muscle.

Oftentimes, one of the easiest ways to tell that you’re overtraining is if you reach a plateau where there doesn’t seem to be any muscle gain. This is usually caused by a combination of: lack of rest + inconsistent diet.

Solution? While you don’t have to stick to the strictest of diets (unless you are training for a specific event), you should ALWAYS make sure that you are getting plenty of rest. Take a look at your workout agenda. How often and how long are you working out or exercising per week? per day? One of the biggest mistakes that athletes make when they hit a plateau is that they increase the number of sets and reps that they do- the thought being that the more they push themselves, the more muscle they’ll develop. In fact, moving beyond a workout plateau involves allowing your muscles TIME to recover. Take a hard look at your weight training routine; perhaps it’s time to scale back a bit. For most athletes, particularly runners, weight training twice a week (on non-consecutive days) is more than sufficient.

You’re feeling depressed and/or anxious.

Depression and anxiety go hand in hand with lack of sleep, which may be caused by overtraining.

Solution? Take a few days to allow your body to rest. During this time, really examine a number of factors, which may be contributing to how you’re feeling, such as: how much free time you have for exercising, how much downtime you have (time when you’re not working out), how you would personally rate your level of fitness, what kinds of goals you have for how fit you want to be.

Learning to Let Go

Just because you had ONE giant plate of chocolate chip cookies with milk that one night before bed doesn’t mean that you’re going to suddenly wake up 300 pounds heavier. It doesn’t mean that you’re going to add an extra minute onto your best mile time. It doesn’t mean that you should now throw fitness out the window and start wearing sweatpants to run errands because nothing else will fit you.

Being ‘fit’ physically means being ‘fit’ mentally- both of which will prevent you from crossing that invisible threshold from ‘training with a purpose’ to simply ‘training too hard’. Keep in mind that when it comes to training, fitness, exercise, running, weight lifting, etc. YOU are in control. You control how often and for how long you are going to exercise. You decide what exercise(s) you are going to do on what days and at what times. Learning how to train properly means doing some soul searching to figure out what your ultimate fitness goals are. It also means getting to know your body and learning the difference between ‘wimping out’ on a run versus cutting a run short so as to prevent problems down the line.

You decide.

In my dictionary, the word ‘overtrain’ falls just a page away from the word ‘overkill’, defined as ‘to obliterate with more nuclear force than required.’ Consider the connection: If your target is top running performance, then to overtrain means to apply more force than is required to hit that target. In fact, overtraining may literally obliterate your target, or at least leave you without the will to pursue it. -Jack Tupper Daniels

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