9 Overtraining Symptoms That You Shouldn’t Ignore
In life, you’re often told that if you pull up your sleeves and work hard, you’ll accomplish your goals.
This is true for many, many things.
If you want to do well at your job, you have got to put in the time to hone the necessary skills required to excel.
If you’re learning to play an instrument, your skill is directly proportional to the amount of hours you put into it (at least up to a point).
In fact, it has become conventional wisdom that if you want to master something, you need to put in roughly 10,000 hours into it.
Working out, however, doesn’t tend to conform to this standard.
In fact, unlike many other things in life, the gym doesn’t necessarily reward you in direct proportion to the amount of effort you put into it.
If you work out too hard, there are not only diminishing returns, but you can actually limit your progress, increase your risk of injury, and weaken your immune system.
And I have some news for you…
If you are following one of those classic bodybuilding style workouts – you know, the generic ones that you see in every fitness magazine – you are very likely to risk overtraining if you are a natural weight lifter (i.e. not on the juice).
The problem is, overtraining can be difficult to spot.
It is insidious in that respect – with the overtraining symptoms creeping up on you until they finally become too pressing to ignore, or force you out of the gym for awhile, halting all of that progress you made.
Well, I don’t want that to happen to you – so listen up, and become familiar with these 9 all-too-common overtraining symptoms.
1) You are working out hard, but aren’t making progress.
What gives, right?
You are following your diet, working out nearly every single day – yet you aren’t getting any stronger or leaner.
If anything you’ve gotten a bit fatter lately, lost some of your strength, and can’t for the life of you figure out why this is.
Have you reached your potential? Did you anger the gym gods who have now decided to forsake you?
Well, if this sounds like you, then it’s a lot more likely that you’re experiencing one of the most common symptoms of overtraining.
You see, when you overtrain, your hormones get all messed up.
This means that your testosterone levels take a nosedive, and your cortisol levels start going up.
As a result, your body starts breaking down muscle tissue, while also increasing your body’s resistance to insulin, making you more likely to put on fat.
2) You keep getting sick.
Look, everyone gets sick sometimes, so I am not saying that every time you get a cold you should assume it’s overtraining.
But if you notice a pattern, where you keep coming down with colds or the flu, then overtraining may well be the cause.
This is especially true if you didn’t used to get sick very much in the past; you know, before you started training so hard.
So why does this happen?
Well, when you put too much stress on your body through overtraining, you force your body into a continual catabolic state.
This leads to a weakening of your immune system, thereby increasing your chances of getting sick.
3) You literally can’t finish your workouts.
Long-distance runners have an expression known as “hitting the wall”.
This is where after running for a long time, you suddenly lose all your energy, and feel like you can’t go on.
Then, in herculean feats of persistence and self-determination, some of them manage to break through the wall and keep going.
This is all well and good, and such dogged resolve is certainly admirable, but you shouldn’t treat your workouts like that.
You are working out to get stronger and leaner, right?
Well, if that is the case, then your workouts shouldn’t ever feel impossible to finish.
If you are pumping out set after set, and find yourself yawning, wondering how you can possibly finish up the remaining 20 sets you have left, then there is a problem.
And if this sounds like you, I can almost guarantee that all of your hard work is actually robbing you of the results you deserve.
4) You have a lot of aches and pains.
It is normal is get sore after workouts.
And if you have only recently started working out, then you should expect to be pretty sore for the first few weeks or so, even if you are training properly.
But that is not the type of soreness I’m talking about…
What I’m talking about is that bad soreness that is never good.
You know, that sharp pain in your elbow, shoulder, knee, or wrist.
Or that deep pain that you can almost feel in your bones.
Yeah, that soreness isn’t the natural result of a good workout; instead, it is often a sign that you have been overtraining.
5) You are having trouble sleeping.
Like the other overtraining symptoms that I’ve mentioned, having the occasional restless night isn’t anything to worry about.
It happens to all of us, and you’ll just catch up on sleep the next night. No big deal.
However, if you notice a recurring pattern, where you toss and turn at night, unable to settle down – as if possessed by an uncomfortable, nervous energy – then you may well have been bitten by the overtraining goblin.
Basically, when you’ve overtrained, your sympathetic nervous system can become overactive.
This is what is responsible for the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response – and while that serves an obviously important function, it can leave you sleep deprived when it is running on overdrive.
6) You’re feeling sluggish and tired during the day.
When you are pushing yourself a little too hard at the gym – especially with weightlifting – it can impact the way your parasympathetic nervous system works.
The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for the regulation of your organs and glands, so when it gets out of whack, so do your hormones.
This means that you experience a drop in testosterone, a rise in cortisol, and generally just feel more tired and shitty all of the time.
7) You’re getting injured a lot.
If you’re working out properly, injuries should be a rare event.
Really, you can go for years lifting heavy weights without issue if everything is in harmony.
But what about if things are out of balance, caused by your tendency to train too hard?
Well, then your body won’t be able to recover properly, which means that you’ll be working out in a weakened state.
And then you tear your chest muscle, pull your shoulder, or aggravate an old injury that hasn’t bothered you since college.
And if you don’t correct the underlying issue, it will just keep happening. Again and again and again.
8) You’re feeling depressed.
Working out is supposed to help cure depression right?
Well, I’ve got some news for you: depression can also be an unfortunate consequence of overtraining.
This happens more as a result of the other overtraining symptoms that we’ve already been over.
You aren’t making much progress (point 1), you keep getting sick (point 2), you have body aches and pains (point 4), and you aren’t sleeping well (point 5).
Well, what do you think all of that leads to, huh?
If you guessed depression, well then you’re right on the money.
9) You start dreading your workouts.
When you’re working out properly, you tend to actually enjoy your workouts.
People who don’t exercise (or who don’t exercise properly) often can’t imagine that the experience is enjoyable – but most people I know who train correctly thoroughly enjoy the process.
So, if you don’t have a general sense of well-being during and after your workouts, then you should definitely consider that you may well be overtraining the fun out of them.
How You Can Recover From Overtraining.
If you recognize some of these symptoms in yourself, fear not – hope is not lost.
The cure for overtraining is actually incredibly simple…
You just have to stop overtraining!
If it has been awhile since you have taken a break from the gym – say, more than 8-10 weeks in a row – then just take a week off.
Or if you can’t bring yourself to have a completely restful week, then at least consider a deloading week to give your body time to recover, where you just do very light weights and don’t push yourself.
You should also make sure that you are getting enough sleep each night – both during your week off and thereafter. You need to give your body time to recover, and while you’re sleeping is one of the most effective times for this to happen.
Finally, take a look at your workouts themselves.
Are you spending hours in the gym each time, busting your ass every day without a break?
Well, if this sounds like you, then you should really rethink your training schedule.
I can pretty much guarantee that you are needlessly compromising your gains if you workout 2 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Make sure to take at least 1-2 days off per week, and try to keep your weight training workouts to around an hour maximum.
Want a bit more guidance? Take a test drive of our online personal training program.
We’ll get a sense of your situation, and create a training program that is optimized to get you results, without putting you at risk of overtraining or other such pitfalls.