Overtraining: What It Is, Symptoms, and Recovery

It takes a lot of dedication and hard work to get good at a sport, and that’s something to be admired. Putting in a lot of miles, putting in a lot of hours at the gym, and working hard day in and day out can undoubtedly assist you in reaching your athletic goals. But if you don’t give yourself enough time to recover, overtraining can slow your progress and even cause you to perform worse in the long run.

What is overtraining?

Overreaching and overtraining are the two categories that fall under the umbrella of excessive exercise. The term “overreaching” refers to a level of muscle soreness that goes above and beyond what you would normally experience due to not recovering adequately between training sessions. Overreaching is a common consequence of working out for multiple days in a row at a high intensity, leading to feelings of exhaustion. Rest is the best antidote to the damage done by pushing oneself beyond their capabilities. Overtraining happens when an athlete continues to train despite showing signs that they are already reaching their limits. Many athletes believe that a sign of weakness or poor performance is required for even more rigorous training, so they continue to push themselves despite struggling. But, unfortunately, it causes the body to deteriorate even further. Full recovery from overtraining is difficult and may require several weeks or even months off from working out. It can be especially difficult for someone whose life revolves around their sport because they will need to take time away from it. It is essential to maintain good sleep, nutrition, and mental health habits. In addition to the planned activities and periods of rest, this should also be incorporated into the training regimen. According to Deborah N. Roche, PhD, a sports psychologist at HSS, “many of us use exercise as a means to manage stress.” “It can be an effective method for removing mental clutter and elevating your mood. But, on the other hand, there is such a thing as having too much of a good thing.

Working Out 2 Hours Per Day?

Most experts recommend devoting at least half an hour each day to physical activity for optimal health and well-being. To keep a healthy weight, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests engaging in aerobic activity for at least 150 minutes per week at a moderate intensity or 75 minutes per week at a vigorous intensity. Those who need to lose weight may require even more. Based on this, exercising for two hours every day is not too much of a stretch for most people. On the other hand, if you are starting with exercise, a workout that lasts for two hours could do more harm than good. It would help if you began with sessions that last 15 minutes and then gradually extended them as your body becomes accustomed to the activity.

Dangers of Excess Exercise

People who suffer from certain medical conditions should only attempt a workout that lasts for two hours if they have received medical clearance or supervision. Working out for an excessive amount of time can worsen joint pain and inflammation if you already have joint issues. In addition, if you already have a heart condition or high blood pressure, a workout of this length could harm your health. An article published in the Proceedings of the Mayo Clinic in June 2012 suggests that overtraining for an extended period can result in unfavourable changes in the heart. Therefore, if you want to exercise for such a long period, you should consult your physician first to get their OK and find out which kinds of workouts you should steer clear of.

Hollywood and Exercise

At times, movies and television shows convey that it is acceptable to engage in strenuous physical activity daily for extended periods. For example, when Sylvester Stallone was preparing for the role of Rocky, he would work out for up to five hours a day to develop the physique and the fighting style required for the role. Other male actors, like Brad Pitt and Ryan Reynolds, have put in the same amount of work to prepare for their roles in action movies. Because training is a required part of their job, actors and actresses can afford to put in the necessary hours at the gym. In addition, they frequently train with the supervision of medical personnel and professional trainers, making prolonged training sessions significantly safer.

Signs and symptoms of overtraining

1. Not eating enough


Weightlifters who keep up an intense training schedule may also find it necessary to reduce the number of calories they consume. It may have a detrimental impact on both health and performance. If your body constantly uses its energy reserves, you risk developing nutritional deficiencies like anaemia. The possibility of developing more serious conditions that impact your cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and endocrine systems is also possible. It is also possible to develop complications involving the nervous and reproductive systems, which may include the loss of periods or irregular cycle patterns.

2. Soreness, strain, and pain

During a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) session, if you push yourself beyond your limits, you may experience muscle strain and pain. Putting too much strain on your body can lead to aches, pains, and even injuries. In addition, there is a possibility that your muscles will suffer from microscopic tears.

3. Overuse injuries

Injuries caused by overuse, such as shin splints, stress fractures, and plantar fasciitis, can be caused by running too frequently. Joint strains, broken bones, and injuries to soft tissues are other types of injuries that can result from overuse. Running, which greatly impacts your body, causes stress and wear and tear on your muscles and joints. Therefore, if you have sustained an injury, you should refrain from engaging in any training until the injury has fully healed.

4. Altered resting heart rate

Have you taken note of the heart rate monitors that some men wear while working out at the gym? Believe it or not, they can assist in determining whether or not you are engaging in excessive training. According to certified strength and conditioning specialist Dan Trink, C.S.C.S., “altered resting heart rate is the result of an increased metabolic rate to meet the imposed demand of training.” But even if you don’t have one of those devices, you can still measure your heart rate in the morning the old-fashioned way by doing so before you get out of bed and start your day, according to Trink. It is all you need to do to monitor your morning heart rate. Of course, you should consult a medical professional if your heart rate at rest is abnormally high or low.

5. Insatiable thirst

Do you find that your thirst is difficult to slake? Are you concluding that it does not matter what you drink? Will you always want more? If this occurs at the same time as an increase in the number of hours spent in the gym, there is a very good chance that you are overtraining. I will explain why your body may be in a catabolic state, which means it’s beginning to break down its muscle for protein. According to the certified strength and conditioning specialist and personal trainer Jay Cardiello, C.S.C.S., “being in a catabolic state naturally causes dehydration.” So the answer is straightforward: Drink plenty of water and get lots of sleep.

6. Extended muscle soreness

Having sore muscles for at least a day or two after engaging in vigorous physical activity is completely normal. But if your muscles are still aching after 72 hours, you should take a break and give yourself some time to recover. This kind of prolonged soreness is a sign that your muscles aren’t recovering, which harms your efforts to build muscle. According to Micah LaCerte, winner of the Muscle Model competition and transformation trainer, “You should be able to get in a gym session—in and out—in 45 to 75 minutes at the very most.”

7. Fatigue

It is somewhat normal to feel tired after exercise; however, fatigue occurs when your body repeatedly is not allowed to recover fully after exercise. As a result, you may experience extreme exhaustion, particularly during and immediately after your workouts. You are more likely to experience fatigue if you regularly do not get enough fuel before you exercise. After that, your body will have to get its energy from the stored carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

8. Reduced appetite and weight loss

In most cases, increased physical activity results in a more robust appetite. On the other hand, engaging in excessive physical activity can lead to hormonal imbalances, affecting whether you feel hungry or full after exercising. As a result, OTS can cause fatigue, a reduction in appetite and weight loss.

9. Irritability and agitation

The levels of stress hormones in your body can be affected by overtraining, which can lead to mental fog, changes in mood, and depression. You may also experience agitation and difficulties concentrating or getting excited about things.

10. Insomnia

You’re working yourself to exhaustion at the gym, but you can’t seem to get to sleep, are you? According to Mike Duffy, a personal trainer and holistic nutrition consultant, “it’s most likely the result of a combination of the nervous system and or hormonal system overload.” Because “this is part of your sleeping pattern where physical restoration occurs,” he recommends that you “focus more on getting your 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. sleep,” which takes place between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. He emphasises that “your body grows while resting, not while training” and advises individuals who may be overtraining to “eat a lot of clean food and take a week off from training altogether.”

11. Depression

In general, physical activity benefits mental health; however, if you exercise to the point of exhaustion, it may have the opposite effect. According to Lee Boyce, a personal trainer and strength coach, people who overtrain tend to view exercise as something it’s not, specifically, a challenge, a conquest, or a space-filler. “People who overtrain tend to view exercise as something it’s not.” You may also have “body image issues” and think that “the more you train, the better you’ll look.” It is a common misconception. According to him, “it is important to know the real motives behind training” to prevent overtraining. Establish short-term and long-term attainable objectives, formulate a plan, and commit to following it.

12. Personality changes

Have you recently missed seeing your workout partner at the gym? Even though Trink considers overtraining to be a “pretty rare” occurrence for most men who train between three and five hours per week, he notes that it is possible for men who are prone to being “aggressive, irritable, or depressed” to experience an “intensification of personality traits.” On the other hand, he warns that these changes aren’t always the result of overtraining because ” other factors can overly stress the nervous system.” So pay attention to what your body is telling you, and act accordingly.

13. Persistent injuries or muscle pain

Overtraining can also be identified by prolonged and severe muscle soreness and injuries that do not heal properly. You could be suffering from chronic or nagging injuries that take a long time to heal. The period of rest in between workouts is necessary for recovery. When there is excessive stress placed on the body, the body has a more difficult time healing itself.

14. Decline in performance

If you train too much, your performance may stop improving altogether or even go in the opposite direction. In addition, you might discover that you need more strength, agility, and endurance, making it more challenging to achieve the goals you set for your training. A sluggish reaction time and slower running speed are two additional side effects of overtraining.

15. Workouts feel more challenging


If you have OTS, your workouts are more challenging and completing them requires more work than usual. Because of this increase in perceived effort, you may feel you are working harder even though your body is working at the same rate as usual. You might experience a higher heart rate while you’re exercising and a higher heart rate when you’re at rest throughout the day. In addition, it may take your heart rate longer to return to its resting rate after you have finished your workout.

16. Decreased immunity or illness

You may find that, in addition to feeling run down, you are also getting sick more frequently. As a result, you may also be more prone to infections, less severe illnesses, and upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs).

17. Weight gain

A deficiency in testosterone and an elevation in cortisol, the stress hormone, are both possible outcomes of overtraining without adequate recovery time between bouts of exercise. In addition, these hormonal shifts are frequently linked to a loss of muscle tissue, an increase in body weight, and an increase in abdominal fat percentage.

18. Loss of motivation

It might be challenging for you to maintain your motivation to go to the gym. It could be because you are mentally or physically exhausted, you have the impression that you need to progress towards your fitness goals, or you are simply not having fun. In either case, endeavour to bring about positive changes in your life to reawaken your inspiration.

19. Frequent sickness

A healthy lifestyle does not include experiencing symptoms of illness. Instead, it can be your body’s way of letting you know that your immune system is weakening due to excessive training. According to Cardiello, overtraining puts your body in a “continuous catabolic state,” which lowers immunity and increases the “chances of becoming ill.” Cardiello recommends taking it easy and cutting back on your workouts if your body shows signs of overtraining. In addition to this, he recommends “adjusting diet, nutritional, and supplement intake, as well as possibly implementing vitamins A and E, as well as glutamine.” Carbohydrates should make up between 55 and 60 per cent of an athlete’s diet, according to Cardiello, who recommends they be consumed in the form of an athletic diet.

20. Loss of concentration

It is essential to concentrate. (According to what LaCerte says, “When you go into the gym, you have a job to do.”) Unfortuitously, he says that sometimes people “bring other stressors into the gym, or it [becomes] social hour,” and that this can cause your gym time to balloon because “you’re doing a set over here, [then] you’re talking for 12 minutes, then you’re going back and doing another set.” According to LaCerte, doing so is counterproductive because “it’s not how the body works when we’re trying to build muscle and lose fat” and because doing so “can lead to overtraining or ineffective training altogether.”

21. Increased injury

Getting injured more often? In particular, are you making your previous injuries worse by continuing to play? If this is the case, you might be overtraining. Why? When you overtrain, your body doesn’t get enough time to recover in between workouts, which means that at some point, you start “training in a weakened state,” as explained by Duffy. He says that if you do this too frequently, you will likely increase your risk of injuries. To protect yourself from the negative effects of overtraining, he recommends incorporating “forced rest periods into your routine,” as well as “changing training intensities or enjoying active recuperation” sports. These activities should be low-intensity and completely dissimilar to weight lifting and cardiovascular exercise.

How to avoid overtraining


The best way to treat overtraining is to keep from engaging in it in the first place. It is true whether you are already experiencing some of the side effects of overtraining or are simply trying to keep yourself safe as you progress through increasingly difficult workouts. Here are some pointers to help you maintain a safe and effective routine. Pay attention to your bodily cues. Collaborate closely with your coach or doctor, and be sure to keep them informed about how you’re feeling at all times. Imagine your exercises in detail. According to Dr Roche, using imagery and visualization can provide the rehearsal you want from training without overloading your body or putting you at risk of injury. Maintain a record of your workouts. Keep a journal of not only how you’re exercising but also how you’re feeling in terms of your overall health. “As you increase the intensity of your workouts, keeping a training log in which you record how you feel each day can help you identify the warning signs of overtraining so that you can cut back on your workout intensity and avoid overtraining,” says Dr Roche. Maintain a healthy balance between training and time off for recovery. Getting enough sleep does not indicate that you are weak. However, you should get at least one full day of rest every week. Alternate intense training days with light activity when you’re getting ready for a specific activity. Cross-training and other forms of active rest should be incorporated into your overall training regimen. It would be best if you worked your way up gradually as you increased the quantity and intensity of your workouts. Recognize when you are pushing yourself too hard and discuss it with someone. Talk to someone about your emotions if you find that your training is becoming an obsession for you, if you continue to exercise despite experiencing pain or injury, or if you feel guilty if you go even one day without strenuous physical activity. It would help if you strived to maintain a positive relationship with physical activity. Check that you are getting sufficient amounts of both calories and nutrients. Your calorie consumption ought to be sufficient to meet the energy demands of your workouts and the repairs that your muscles require. Your eating habits should be evaluated with the help of a nutritionist to ensure you are getting enough of the required nutrients. Drink lots of water. Dehydration contributes to muscle fatigue. Therefore, it is important to drink enough fluids. However, be careful when consuming fluids that further contribute to dehydration, such as beverages containing caffeine or alcohol. Try as much as you can to bring down your stress levels. Every person uniquely handles stress. Your body will start to break down when the amount of stress you are under is greater than your capacity to deal with it. Keep an eye out for situations in which you can reorganize your priorities to lessen the impact of the stressors in your life. Suppose you’re having trouble working through problems associated with your education, career, family life, social life, body image, finances, travel, time, or anything else that affects your mental well-being. In that case, consider getting assistance from a mental health professional.

The bottom line

Training too much can be counterproductive to your efforts to reach your fitness goals. Instead, create a workout routine that includes various types of exercise and is tailored to your current fitness level and desired result. After you’ve put in some effort, make sure to relax and give your muscles time to recover. Then, take some time off to rest and recuperate, and make sure to schedule plenty of low-impact exercise into your schedule.

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