Unable to make progress at the gym even though you are working hard? You may be experiencing the effects of overtraining.
Every time you workout, you are essentially asking your body to perform a task. Each time we make a demand on the body to perform a task, it must learn to coordinate and complete the pattern of movements. Every time the body learns to coordinate and complete a movement, it becomes better reinforced in the muscle nervous tissue. The body creates an imprint of the task in order to be better prepared for the next time it may have to do the same task. This act of preparing itself is the basis for all physical training, complex or not, as the body adapts.
What happens when a demand on the body exceeds its ability to adapt to the stimulus? This is common when the demands are more frequent or more intense. This state is called overreaching. Chronic overreaching can quickly lead to overtraining if left untreated.
There are many reasons why a person may be unable to adapt to the demands we place on the body. Overtraining is actually reached more quickly than many people think and overtraining occurs frequently.
There are many signs and symptoms of overtraining, here are a few you or people near to you might have noticed:
Feeling irritable, grumpy, or snapping at people
Unable to improve performance even with steady training
Trouble sleeping or insomnia
Stubbing your toe, tripping over your own feet, or fumbling more than usual
Feeling more fatigued than usual, or waking up feeling unrested
Feeling anxious, depressed or generally apathetic
Feeling sick with a small virus that just won’t go away.
You may actually be experiencing just two or three of these signs or symptoms that are out of character for you, and this could be an indication of overtraining.
The term overtraining insinuates that the problem comes from the actual exercise, which may be the culprit in the equation. However, the issue could also be coming from the lack of rest and recovery, or an inability to recover for one of many reasons.
If the problem stems from the exercises, it means that your sessions are either too intense, too heavy, or are lasting too long without enough fuel to feed performance. However, if the issue stems from the inability to recover, it may be a result many different things:
You aren’t getting enough fluid or electrolytes
You aren’t getting enough nutrients via quality of nutrition
You aren’t consuming enough calories to fuel performance
You aren’t able to recover and heal within the given rest time and require longer
You aren’t able to recover because of other stresses or anxiety in your life
If any of these sound familiar to you, you can expect to have a difficult time with recovery and thus a difficult time performing well in workouts. Improvements can only occur when all the “other” aspects of training are in line.
When you are in the stages of overreaching, you will be able to heal more quickly than when you are in the stages of overtraining. If overtraining is pushed consistently, it can then lead to burnout. Burnout is dangerous because it usually affects a persons private life as well.
All of these require the same solution: stop exercising, start resting!
Rest is the only way to recover from overtraining. Though there is no single standard, there are general guidelines that appear to work for most athletes. The time to recover from overreaching can be as little as 7 to 14 days. Overtraining can take up to 2 to 4 months to recover from. Burnout is the worst, typically taking 6 months to over a year to recover from.
If you don’t want to ever have to deal with overtraining again, be sure your training never takes you there again! Learn to recognize the signs of overreaching and slow down when your body needs a break.
A good strength and conditioning program will recognize that a person needs to have the flexibility to adapt to changing stresses that come up in daily life. For example, students need to be aware that training must change around exam period. A stressful moment in your private life will have an impact on training, even if it seems like workouts are going fine.
Finally, nutrition is a huge part of the battle. Getting all of the varieties of nutrients you’ll need as well as the right distribution of macronutrients (Carbs, proteins and fats) is paramount to recovery and healing.
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