Overtraining: these are the nine signs you're pushing too hard in the gym
Feeling as if your fitness progress has hit a stumbling block? You may be overdoing it
Challenging yourself in the gym is good. But there's a fine line between an intense workout regime, and overtraining.
Overtraining is completely counterproductive when it comes to achieving your fitness goals, regardless of whether you're working out to build muscle, lose weight or just improve general health.
Many exercise scientists assert that overtraining should actually be referred to as 'under-recovery'.
Butler University academic Adrian Shepard says overtraining happens when you're "not allowing your body the opportunity to adjust, adapt and recuperate in response to the training regimen you're taking part in."
The clear signs of overtraining
So, how do you know when you're overdoing it in the gym?
According to Shepard, the common signs include:
- Decrease in performance
- Increased resting heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
- Muscle fatigue
- Disturbed sleep patterns
- Gastro-intestinal disturbances
- Increased irritability
- Apathy and low self-esteem
All of these symptoms can halt your progress, and also affect your everyday life. Nevertheless, if you are experiencing a combination of the above, there are ways around it.
How to avoid overtraining
Shepard suggests these three steps to avoid overtraining:
- "Gradually work your way into exercise, especially if you are a beginner, are recovering from an injury, or have been physically inactive for some time
- "Ask staff of your fitness centre to take you through equipment and facility orientations. You'll learn what equipment is available, how it works and what to use for desired results
- "If your fitness facility offers them, schedule a fitness assessment to determine your current physical health status and fitness level. This will be your baseline measurement for evaluating future progress. The assessment also identifies any potential health and injury risks in training, and helps in developing your personalised exercise program and goals."
If you're a personal trainer or fitness instructor on the other side of the gym floor, there are also ways you can help people who seem to be overtraining.
Shepard says: "Befriend them. Get to know what they're doing and why they're doing it. Find out what they are training for. Do they realise that what they're doing is harmful to their bodies?"
Suppose you're looking to build muscle mass, for example. Your workouts only need to be around 45 minutes to an hour in length. Growth is all about recovery, too. Sufficient sleep and plenty of protein will do more for your progress than battering your body to bits for two hours.
Similarly, if training to lose weight you'll need to put the onus on recovery.
Carbs provide your body with energy in the form of glycogen. According to the British Journal of Sports Medicine, low-carb diets are more likely to lead to symptoms of fatigue and overtraining.
"Glycogen depletion leads to rapid fatigue, particularly after the anaerobic threshold is reached, and may predispose to more prolonged fatigue.
"Thus, a poor diet with insufficient carbohydrates to meet training demands, as may occur when an athlete is attempting to lose weight, will increase the difficulty in coping with a particular programme."