How to Overcome Overtraining: Tips & Tricks
Burnout, stress syndrome, under-recovery, failure adaptation, chronic fatigue, under-performance, staleness, extreme over-reaching… what do all these words describe? They are referring to muscle fatigue, also known as overtraining.
What Is Overtraining?
Overtraining happens when you push yourself a little too far for too long with your workouts. It’s an imbalance of the amount of training you’re doing compared to the amount of rest and recovery you provide your body. Overtraining syndrome (OTS) is common among elite athletes but can also happen to a regular person trying to improve their health and physique. Your body can get to the point where it’s had enough and needs a break. This can manifest in several ways, and it’s important to pay attention so you can overcome overtraining if it happens to you.
What Are the Symptoms of Overtraining
When you do too much aerobic training, the most common symptoms you may experience are called Parasympathetic Alterations. The prevailing symptoms from excessive anaerobic exercise are called Sympathetic Alterations. These symptoms include:
- Lack of motivation and disinterest in working out
- Slowed heart rate
- Sympathetic Symptoms
- Rapid heart rate
- High blood pressure
- Other Overtraining Symptoms
- Decreased performance
- Continuously sore muscles
- Poor sleep (not restful)
- Lack of focus
- Poor immunity
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
What Can You Do to Overcome Overtraining?
If you’ve gotten to the point of muscle fatigue, you can stop the overtraining in its tracks and hit the road to recovery. Using a few simple tips and tricks can help you overcome the symptoms and have you feeling refreshed and ready to go again in no time.
Try implementing some of these strategies:
- Hydration—you’d be surprised how much being dehydrated can affect your energy levels. If your water and electrolyte balance is disrupted, you can experience lethargy, weakness, lack of concentration, and even irritability. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day will help you avoid dehydration, so using a sports drink or other supplement to replenish electrolytes, as needed, is also a good idea.
- Check your nutrition—what are you eating, how often, and when? You may need to adjust your timing (like don’t eat a full meal right before you train). Or, you might be eating foods that cause inflammation in your body that leads to fatigue. You may not be getting enough quality nutrients from your food selection, or you might have too many processed carbs, fats, and sugars in your diet. Muscle fatigue is right around the corner if you’re not providing your body with the basic dietary needs it craves. Remember, junk in, junk out.
- Get enough protein in your diet—why do you need to monitor your protein intake? Because your body uses protein as the building blocks to repair and replenish itself. Your muscles use protein to recover from tough resistance training workouts, and your body uses protein to rebuild and add muscle tissue.
- Eat quality foods—also be sure you’re eating sufficient calories for your activity levels, plenty of whole, natural foods, healthy fats, quality proteins, and complex (fiber-rich) carbohydrates. Your food choices alone can make the difference when it comes to powering through a tough workout and recovering rapidly.
- Add supplements—adding supplements to your diet can make an immense difference for you. Make sure you’re getting the essentials first, such as a good multivitamin and mineral supplement, possibly a fish oil supplement, and a probiotic. You can also look into adding antioxidants and nutrients known for supporting muscle recovery, such as creatine and HMB.
- Improve your sleep—sleep quality is a biggie when it comes to muscle fatigue. When your body is resting, your body is recovering. Too little sleep (or poor quality sleep) too often is a recipe for overtraining. Clean up your sleep hygiene, and you’ll often watch your muscle fatigue disappear.
- Reduce the stress in your life—stress can take a much larger toll than you might anticipate. Believe it or not, your psychological stress can wreak havoc on your physical body. Try to fit in time for meditation, massage, yoga, bubble baths, or other soothing activities that allow your body to fully unwind and relax.
- Stop training—no, don’t stop altogether, just stop for a while until you start to feel that fire again. Allowing your body to rest up and recharge may be difficult, but you can’t push yourself to extremes without allowing time for the muscle fatigue to dissipate. Some athletes take a planned week every so often where they just rest or purposely “de-train,” meaning they take it very easy during workouts and scale back the intensity.
- Switch up your training—maybe you need a change of pace or a change of scenery to freshen up your fitness. If you’re always in the gym, try taking your workout outside. If you regularly attend group classes, check out some of the machines in the resistance training section of your facility. You can even try switching the time of day when you train. Morning people might be surprised how much they enjoy the occasional evening workout and vice versa.
Recognizing overtraining can be difficult since there is a fine line between pushing yourself and pushing yourself too far. Stay in touch with how you feel and listen to your body’s cues. If you are experiencing two or more of the symptoms of muscle fatigue, it may be time to give it a rest.