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Overtraining Home Subscribe Email Print

Are you working harder and harder and not achieving anything?


If you have hit a plateau with your results whether they are for fat loss, muscle gain or sporting performance – you should ask yourself a couple of questions.

Are you doing the same thing day in day out?

  • Yes – then it’s time to change you program, give your body a different stimulus.
  • No – read on…

You are changing your programs regularly, but are you eating properly?

  • To the best of my knowledge I am – book in and have a Nutrition Consult and find out for sure, it’s free as part of your membership and could be the key to further success.
  • Yes, I’ve had my Nutrition Consult and I am eating well but I’m not getting anywhere – read on…

A long with your lack of progress do you:

  • Get sick more often?
  • Have persistent muscle soreness?
  • Experience a persistent feeling of fatigue?
  • Have an elevated resting heart rate?
  • Have an increased incidence of injury?
  • Find yourself more irritable?
  • Feel depressed?
  • Feel as though you have lost motivation?
  • Suffer from insomnia?
  • Have a decreased appetite?
  • Have a decreased libido?
  • (In cases of sport performance and muscle gain) find yourself losing weight?
  • Easily lose concentration?
  • Feel like you’re declining in your level of strength or fitness?

If you’ve come this far and answered yes to one or more of the above questions then you may be Overtraining!

What is Overtraining?

Overtraining is an emotional, behavioral and physical condition that occurs when the volume and intensity of your exercise exceeds your recovery capacity. You cease to make progress, and can even begin to lose strength and fitness. Overtraining is a common problem in weight training and with athletes; however it can also be experienced by the recreational trainer.

What causes Overtraining?

Overtraining occurs when you do not allow yourself enough time for recovery from a hard training session. For improvements in fitness and strength to occur there must be adequate time for repair, regeneration and recovery. This is generally at least a 24 hour period. If sufficient rest is not acquired then regeneration cannot occur. And it is when this imbalance between excess training and inadequate rest persists that your results will eventually plateau and even decline. Mild overtraining can require several days of rest or reduced activity to fully restore your fitness. However, if prompt attention is not given to the developing state, and you continue to train and accumulate fatigue, the condition may come to persist for many weeks or even months. Overtraining occurs more readily if you are simultaneously exposed to other physical and psychological stressors on top of the excess training occurring in the gym. These other stressors can be jet lag, ongoing illness, overwork, menstruation, poor nutrition, etc. It is a particular problem for you if you engage in intense exercise while limiting your food intake.

A number of possible mechanisms for overtraining have been proposed:

  • Microtrauma to the muscles (particularly from hypertrophy training) is created faster than the body can heal them.
  • Amino acids (the body’s building blocks) are used up faster than they are supplied in the diet – this is known as a protein deficiency.
  • The body becomes calorie-deficient and the rate of breakdown of muscle tissue increases. While it is desirable to be in a calorie deficit while trying to lose body fat, too much of a deficit can leave you deficient causing this catabolic state where your body breaks down muscle tissue for energy.
  • Levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) are elevated for long periods of time, which causes the body to be in a catabolic state for longer.
  • Excessive strain to the nervous system during training.

So, what do you do if you think you are Overtraining?

Well firstly, a lot of the symptoms for overtraining can be associated with other illnesses, so it’s better to be safe than sorry, so get checked out by a medical professional.

As for Overtraining there are a few simple things you can do:

  • Allow more time for your body to recover
  • Take a break from training
  • Reduce the volume and/or the intensity of your training
  • Ask a trainer about periodisation of your training
  • Split your training program so that different groups of muscles are worked on different days
  • Increase your sleep time
  • Address your diet
  • Ensure that your calorie intake matches your expenditure, or if your after fat loss make sure it is no more than a 500 calorie deficit per day, anymore and you start to break down muscle tissue.
  • Ensure your daily eating encompasses a large variety of macronutrients
  • And just about everyone can benefit from a good multi-vitamin and make sure you address any other vitamin or mineral deficiencies.
  • Treat yourself – not only are massages relaxing but very beneficial.

To avoid Overtraining in the future

When you wake up in the morning ask yourself these six questions and rate each answer on a scale of 1 to 5 – 1 being strongly disagree and 5 being strongly agree:

  1. I slept well last night
  2. I am looking forward to today’s workout
  3. I am optimistic about my future fitness results
  4. I feel vigorous and energetic
  5. My appetite is great
  6. I have little to no muscle soreness

If your score is 20 or above then you have probably recovered enough to continue training. If it’s below 20 then consider resting or an easy workout until your score rises.

Good luck everyone with your goals – and while you can never achieve anything without a bit of hard work and determination, you can work hard intelligently.

Compiled by Rob Bonser.

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