Hard and prolonged training is necessary when you are an athlete preparing yourself for competition. The right preparation is the edge you have against your competitors. But this doesn’t mean you have to overtrain yourself. Pushing yourself a bit more each day is key to endurance and improved performance. And it’s also here where some athletes and fitness enthusiasts commit some drastic mistakes that endanger their health and increase the risk of injuries.
When rest and recovery are overlooked, your training can backfire, leading to a decreased performance. Overtraining can be harmful not only for the body but for the mind as well.
Psychological symptoms often come hand in hand with physical symptoms when you’ve pushed yourself beyond your capacity. Proper rest and recovery should also be on your list when you plan to train harder and longer.
But then, how to know if you’ve pushed yourself too much? The following things will happen to you.
Your body is generally painful and aching all over
While muscle soreness is normal when training hard, you will know it’s a different kind of thing when it’s accompanied by many other symptoms like exhaustion and lack of energy. Your legs and muscles are sore and aching while your joints are excessively painful. If you go on with your workout, there’s a chance you’ll increase your risk of injury. A good rule of thumb is to take a break if your body seems unable to recover after three days of rest.
Your resting heart rate has increased
Experts say you will know if you’re on the verge of overtraining by tracking your resting heart rate. The resting heart rate or RHR is the number of times the heart beats per minute when you’re in complete rest. Physically fit people have lower RHR because RHR decreases as the heart gets stronger with exercise.
If you’re an endurance athlete, you’re RHR could be lower than 40. For most fitness enthusiasts, their RHR could be below 60. Healthy adults have an average RHR of 60 to 80.
If you’ve noticed that your resting heart rate is increasing despite slowing your pace, this shows you’ve just overtrained yourself. This is most noticeable when you’ve experienced other symptoms. A change in your RHR means you haven’t recovered fully from your previous workout.
Your best course of action would be to slow down your training and give your body time to recover and heal. Postponing one or more days to train would be ideal. You can safely get back to the training when your RHR returns to normal.
You’re unusually thirsty
Excessive sweating could equate excessive thirst because of the way your body loses fluid. But if your thirst seems to be unquenchable despite having drunk loads of water, you’re probably dehydrated, which is another symptom of overtraining.
It’s also possible for your body to be in a catabolic state where it consumes your muscles as protein, causing dehydration. Once this happens to you, hydrate yourself by drinking lots of water and having proper rest and sleep to allow your muscles to recover.
You have trouble sleeping
Increasing your training volume without sufficient recovery can take its toll on your sleep patterns. When stressed too much, your body will activate the sympathetic nervous system, which in turn increases the levels of stress hormones like epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol. An overload of these hormones increases heart rate and blood pressure. In this state, your brain will be unable to produce hormones and proteins necessary for quality sleep. Lack of sleep can decrease productivity and performance.
You’re frequently sick
Overtraining can lead to poor health too. As mentioned earlier, overtraining can increase your body’s stress response. This means your body will get busy dealing with stress and becomes less able to protect itself with reduced immunity.
With a weak immune system, your chances of getting colds, flu, and other infections could increase. This is why recovery is important when doing high-intensity training. Rest and recovery are the only ways your body can regulate the stress hormones.
According to research, more than 90 minutes of high-intensity endurance training can reduce your immunity, making you more susceptible to illnesses for up to 3 days after your training session. This is the reason why athletes are advised to get enough nutrition and take supplements to protect themselves against illnesses.
Your immune system responds best to moderate, regular exercise. One study found that regular exercisers reported fewer cases of colds after running regularly. Regular exercise has also been found to have a long-term positive effect on the immune system.
You’re feeling depressed
One of the positive effects of exercise is lifting your mood. But when done too much, the opposite is bound to happen. Overtraining can hurt your mental health and affect your mood. You will know you’ve worked out too much when people tell you you’ve become more irritable, anxious, and less motivated. These psychological changes occur due to the changes in your neurotransmitters that result from the lack of recovery. Insomnia can also trigger these psychological changes. Thus, when you feel run down, you need to take breaks before things will get out of hand.
Your self-esteem is suffering
Training and workouts are supposed to boost your confidence. A sense of accomplishment can make you feel good. But when you seem not to get enough of your training and keep on pushing because more seems better, chances are you’re at the brink of overtraining. Your workout has gotten the best of your mental health, causing changes to the functions of your nervous system that lead to mental fatigue and lowered self-esteem.
You injure yourself more
You have increased chances of injuring yourself or re-aggravating old injuries when you overtrain. This is because you’re working out in a weakened state. You need to master listening to yourself. Having a training log can also help you recognize any changes, physically or mentally during training. This way it’s easier for you to understand the need for a break or reduce the training intensities.
If ever you find yourself caught in the middle of overtraining, you need to hydrate yourself as quickly as possible. Get enough sleep and call off training for a week. Get a massage to help ease muscle soreness and totally recover. Most of all, eat more nutritious foods to help boost your weakened immune system.