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What happens to us when we exercise too much

How intense workouts can tire both the muscles and the mind? Or - what is an overtraining syndrome and how to avoid it?

You have set a goal to create the best possible version of yourself. You do really want this and you do have enough willpower to train every day, train intensively and not pay attention to fatigue and poor health?

Then this article is for you.

It's no secret that exercise increases the level of endorphins, reduces stress, increases energy, and generally improves well-being. But for how long? Maybe it makes sense to reduce the load?

Intense training seven days a week is not always the best way to achieve your fitness goals. In fact, the effect can be just the opposite and can cause serious health problems.

The main symptoms of overtraining syndrome (OTS) are fatigue, as well as deterioration of sleep and well-being, which occurs when the body does not have enough time to recover after intense workouts. As a result, your performance deteriorates, but the risk of injury and various health problems increases.


What is overtraining?

There are two classifications of excessive physical activity:

  • Overexertion - usually occurs after heavy training for several days in a row. Your muscles hurt more and you feel more tired than usual. Fortunately, the effects of overwork can be easily reversed by simply resting.
  • Overtraining - occurs when a person does not pay attention to signs of overload and continues to train. Many people believe that weakness or poor performance is a sign of insufficient effort, so they continue to train harder and harder. And this only worsens their situation. Recovery from overtraining is difficult and may require stopping training for several weeks or even months. For those for whom regular workouts are a way of life, it can be especially difficult.

There are 3 stages of overtraining:

  • At first, well-being, sleep, and appetite deteriorate, nervousness occurs, and sports results do not improve;
  • In the second stage, sports results deteriorate, there is an inability to adapt to both high-speed and endurance loads;
  • The third stage is characterized by persistent deterioration of athletic performance and disorders in the functioning of the central nervous system and circulatory system.

Many of us go to the gym to relieve stress, "put our minds in order" and improve our well-being and mood.

However, sometimes the load that we place on our body can be too great and cause unpleasant consequences, because:

  • Overtraining exhausts not only the body but also the mind;
  • This mental fatigue can lead to wrong judgments and decisions.

Therefore, when it comes to training, rest for the mind is just as important as rest for the muscles.


Signs and symptoms of overtraining

It can be hard to tell when you've overtrained.

Fatigue after training is normal. Another thing is if the feeling of fatigue does not go away, motivation disappears and you have to "force" yourself to train.


Symptoms of training-related overtraining:

  • Unusual feeling of heaviness, stiffness, or soreness in the muscles;
  • Excessive sweating or “overheating”;
  • Inability to train or compete at a previous level;
  • Feeling of increased load during "normal" or "light" training;
  • Recovery time after training becomes longer;
  • Performance plateaus or declines;
  • Repetitive injuries such as muscle strains, tendinitis, stress fractures and chronic joint pain.
  • Thoughts of skipping or stopping training appear.

Lifestyle-related signs of overtraining:

  • Constant feeling of tiredness, exhaustion, or lack of energy throughout the day;
  • Decreased motivation and/or self-confidence;
  • Increased feelings of tension, irritability, restlessness, anger, or confusion;
  • Difficulty performing usual daily activities;
  • Inability to rest;
  • Problems with concentration and performance at work or school;
  • New problems with sleeping quality, including insomnia;
  • Depressed mood or other signs of depression;
  • Previously enjoyable activities no longer bring joy.

Health-related signs of overtraining:

  • Increased frequency of illnesses such as colds and upper respiratory tract infections;
  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate at rest;
  • Decreased libido, irregular menstrual cycles, or absence of menstruation;
  • Unexplained weight loss and/or loss of appetite increased thirst;
  • Sick appearance, for example – deterioration of the skin, hair, and nail health (acne, nail breakage, hair loss);
  • Constipation, diarrhea.

If any of these signs seem familiar to you, it may be time to make some changes. It is best to identify these symptoms in time and make changes to the diet, training plan, and daily routine. To do this, you need to "listen to yourself". Remember the later the problem is identified, the more time it will take to recover.

It should be remembered that many signs of overtraining are similar, for example, to signs of asthma, anemia, depression, diabetes, etc. Therefore, it is important not to engage in self-diagnosis, but to consult with a doctor about new or unusual symptoms.


How to recover from overtraining

If you notice symptoms of overtraining, consult your trainer or doctor, because it is usually difficult to understand what exactly the specific symptoms indicate on your own.

Do they warn you? Or, maybe, this day just "didn't work out"?

It is also possible that the main problem is not in the training plan, but in some kind of nutrient deficiency and it is easy to fix the situation by changing your menu.


Typically, recovery from overtraining includes:

  • Rest. Rest is crucial for recovery. You may have to temporarily stop training or reduce the intensity of your workouts;
  • Changes in the diet. Check your eating habits. It is possible that your body does not receive the amount of calories corresponding to the load. Maybe there is not enough protein, vitamins or minerals? Consult a nutritionist and develop an eating plan that will provide your body with the energy and nutrients it needs.

Gradual “return to life”

Your doctor and trainer should help you determine when you are ready to start exercising again. Signs that you're ready to start training again include:

  • The lost desire to train is restored;
  • The ability to endure the previous load and recover quickly after training is restored.

But even if you can withstand the load and have the desire, start slowly. Start with a load of 50 to 60 percent of the previous load. Increase the amount or intensity of training by about 10 percent each week.

The recovery period is different for everyone, but it is important to understand that if you hurry to get back in line, recovery may take longer.

The more closely you follow the instructions of the professionals, the sooner you will be back in the gym, on the track, or on the field.


How to avoid overtraining

The above list of symptoms may be a useful guide, but it is somewhat subjective. You may not notice, ignore or deny certain symptoms, or you may believe that such little things cannot affect your health.

This is especially true for those for whom daily workouts have become an integral part of life.

Therefore, in some cases, laboratory tests such as blood tests are recommended to measure nutrient levels (such as electrolyte or iron), hormone levels (such as cortisol and testosterone), or other factors (such as inflammatory markers).

However, the best solution is to avoid overtraining.

Here are some tips to help you maintain a safe exercise routine:

  • Listen to your body. Tell your coach how you feel. Thanks to my many years of experience, I see a lot, but I'm not a telepath, and so are other coaches. The coach can only help you if you let him help you.
  • Visualize your workouts. This can help you get the training load you need without overexerting your body and without risking injury.
  • Keep a training diary – write down how you feel, as well as how much and what exercises you do. As your training load increases, tracking your feelings can help you recognize signs of overtraining and reduce the load in time to prevent overtraining.
  • Balance training with recovery periods. Getting enough rest is not a sign of weakness. You need at least a few full days of rest each week.
  • Vary – change the intensity of training and exercises. Do not load the same muscle groups at each workout – train your legs first, the next day your back, then your shoulders and arms ... Include active rest in your training plan. Increase the volume/load of the workout gradually.
  • If you feel like you're obsessed with training/exercise despite being injured or in pain, or feel guilty if you miss a day, talk to someone about how you're feeling.
  • Make sure you are getting enough calories and nutrients. If you are unsure of your nutrition knowledge, work with a nutritionist to assess your eating habits and make sure that your body gets everything it needs and gets enough.
  • Drink plenty of water. Dehydration contributes to muscle fatigue. Provide yourself with enough fluid (so that the urine is light in color). Be careful with liquids that increase dehydration, such as caffeinated drinks and alcoholic beverages.
  • Do your best to reduce stress. Everyone copes with stress in different ways, when you can't cope anymore - your body will suffer too. Look for opportunities to change your priorities to reduce the impact of stressors.

Key takeaways

Healthy sleep, nutrition and mental well—being are very important - they should be part of your training regime, just like exercise and rest.

Design a training program that balances different types of exercise to suit your fitness level and goals.

Remember that your body needs time to rest and regenerate.

Enjoy life, and spend more time with friends and family.

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