There’s no stress-buster like exercise. Working out can feel great, and sometimes it’s easy to get hooked on it. While it can be a good thing to love your workouts, overdoing it can land you in trouble. In fact, there is such a thing as overworking your body, and this is what overtraining syndrome is. In this article, you’ll learn more about the dangers of this syndrome, and about the signs and symptoms it displays.
WHAT IS OVERTRAINING SYNDROME?
Overtraining syndrome is a condition where exercise pushes the body beyond the point where it can naturally recover from the physical stress of the workouts. It’s different from mere tiredness and muscle soreness, which are to be expected when you work out intensely within your physical limitations. Overtraining, if not rectified, may lead to inconvenient symptoms in the short run and potential health hazards in the long run.
DANGERS OF OVERTRAINING SYNDROME
Overtraining can prove to be disadvantageous to the body in more ways than one. Some of the dangers that overtraining syndrome poses are discussed in this section.
Overtraining can take a toll on your body’s immune system and may interfere with your body’s natural ability to fight off common illnesses. Remaining in a continuous catabolic state may compromise your immunity. You’ll become more vulnerable to catching common colds, suffering from fever, and being affected by other viral or bacterial infections. Lack of adequate rest and recovery only worsens things further. So, it’s advisable to cut down on the frequency and the intensity of your workouts in the interests of your overall health.
NEGATIVE EMOTIONAL CHANGES
The effects of overtraining are the exact opposite of the results of proper training. While the latter causes positive changes in your mood, overtraining syndrome has a negative impact on your overall psyche. Hormonal changes occur in the body when you subject it to prolonged and intense stress, and as a consequence, you may suffer from unexpected mood swings, low levels of motivation, and sometimes, even reduced self-esteem. Overtraining may also make you succumb to depression.
SUSCEPTIBILITY TO INJURY
Another dangerous effect of overtraining syndrome is that it makes you more prone to injury. You may find that your old injuries start to aggravate again, or that you’re suffering from new ones. This is because your body doesn’t get to adequately recuperate from the workouts, and eventually, you reach a point where you’re always training in a weakened muscular state. This is not good at all because the slightest overexertion may result in some damage.
INCREASE IN WEIGHT
Another potential danger of overtraining is that contrary to popular belief, working out too much may result in weight gain. Excessive and intense cardio has the potential to decrease the rate of fat metabolism in your body as it elevates the levels of cortisol and promotes insulin insensitivity. So, when you train for longer periods without taking adequate rest, your body tips over the plateau and reaches a point where exercise has the opposite effect of what it’s intended for.
10 SIGNS YOU ARE OVERTRAINING AND MORE
Some of the most evident signs of overtraining syndrome are explained below.
1. UNQUENCHABLE THIRST
If you notice that you’re feeling unnaturally thirsty, and if your thirst seems to be insatiable and occurs more frequently, it could be a sign that you’re suffering from the overtraining syndrome. This is particularly true if the increase in your thirst coincides with a period when you’ve started to work out more regularly. The reason behind increased thirst is because your body is in a catabolic state where it consumes its own muscles for its protein requirements. This phenomenon leads to dehydration and makes you feel thirstier.
2. PROLONGED MUSCLE SORENESS
Muscle soreness is common after an intense workout. However, this kind of soreness should typically only last for a day or two. When you develop overtraining syndrome, your muscles continue to remain sore past the 72-hour mark, because they aren’t recovering from the workouts. This impacts your muscle-building journey negatively as it doesn’t allow your muscles to grow despite all the training. In order to overcome this issue, it’s best to cut your workout session down to a maximum of around 75 minutes.
3. LACK OF CONCENTRATION
Overtraining syndrome is accompanied by a significant increase in the stress on your body. This messes with the body’s hormone balance and increases the levels of adrenaline and cortisol, which is the stress hormone. As a result, you start to suffer from mood swings and a lack of concentration on your everyday activities. The downside to this is that you have difficulty focusing on your workout, which may push you to train harder, thus keeping this vicious cycle going.
Overtraining may also result in sleep disturbances, eventually leading to insomnia. This might seem contradictory to the assumption that training too hard will make you so tired that you fall asleep as soon as you hit the bed. The reason behind overtraining-related insomnia is an overload on the body’s nervous system and hormonal system. And despite what you may believe about naps making up for the lack of sleep at night, the 10 PM to 2 AM window is when the body recovers from physical stress in the most effective manner.
5. CRAVINGS FOR SUGAR
Training for too long or training at high-intensity levels may result in an increased desire to eat sweet foods. This is because when you suffer from overtraining syndrome, your body eventually goes into a state of glycogen depletion. In order to make up for this deficit, you’ll find that your craving for sugar increases. Look out for these signs, especially if it occurs along with an increase in thirst. Unfortunately, eating foods high in sugar may undo the effects of all the workouts you’ve done.
6. LACK OF MOTIVATION
Another revealing symptom of overtraining syndrome is a gradual or a sudden onset of a complete lack of motivation. Where you once used to be excited to begin your workout and get down to exercising, you’ll find that it starts to feel like a chore. While it’s normal to not be in the mood to work out every once in a while, feeling de-motivated frequently may be a sign that you’ve been overtraining. In such a scenario, taking a break will help you pick up from where you left off with more enthusiasm and vigor.
7. NO NOTICEABLE RESULTS
By all logical rules, training hard means that your efforts should bear fruits and help you achieve your fitness goals. However, overtraining syndrome makes you hit a plateau where you stop seeing any results, be it with respect to losing weight, building muscle, or burning fat. This lack of progress can be a sign that your body is being overtrained, particularly if you notice that this happens for a considerable period. Unfortunately, this only drives people to push harder instead of taking a break.
8. CHANGES IN YOUR HEART RATE
Typically, the resting heart rate in a healthy person is around 60 to 100 beats per minute. Also, the fitter you are, the lower your resting heart rate is. Overtraining tends to push your heart rate upward by at least 10 to 15 beats per minute. Now, while it’s possible to experience elevated heart rates every once in a while, due to various reasons, overtraining results in a prolonged increase in the rate. So, keep an eye out for this symptom by wearing a strap-on heart rate monitor or by simply using your fingers to check your pulse.
9. INCOMPLETE WORKOUTS
Training too hard has a counterproductive effect on your body’s ability to get through a workout. Instead of making you grow accustomed to the stress, overtraining makes you feel progressively weaker and slower. You’ll find that you aren’t able to lift the weights you generally have no trouble with, or that you aren’t able to complete routines that you normally breeze through. You may also find it incredibly hard to push through another set. All of these signs may point at one cause: overtraining.
10. POST-WORKOUT MOODINESS
Typically, a good workout makes you feel great because of the rush of endorphins that follow. However, when you overtrain, you’ll find that this feeling never comes. Instead, you’ll generally feel moody or irritable, despite having powered through a grueling workout. This shouldn’t be happening because exercise elevates your mood and makes you feel more positive. If you notice that you’ve been feeling this way for quite a while, it may be time to cut down on the intensity of your workouts.
When you’ve noticed a combination of two or more of these signs for a considerable period of around a week or more, it’s a clear indication that you need to slow down and allow your body to rest and recover. Fortunately, overtraining syndrome is easy to correct, particularly if you read the signs and stop yourself before your body gives into the stress. Train for around three to five times a week, and rest adequately in between. Listen to your body and pick up the signals it’s giving you, so you don’t suffer from any negative consequences.