Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be a professional athlete to experience overtraining syndrome. Vigorous daily workouts, inadequate recovery time between training sessions, repetitive exercises, and sudden increases in the length, duration, and intensity of your workouts can all lead to overtraining syndrome. Left untreated for a long period of time, overtraining syndrome can cause your body to become fatigued and injured, leaving you sidelined for months.
If you want to know how to prevent and recover from overtraining syndrome, this post has tons of helpful information!
What Is Overtraining Syndrome?
Overtraining syndrome is a condition that results from working out to much and/or too hard without giving your body the chance to rest and recover. While we tend to think more is better when it comes to fitness, pushing too hard for too long can lead to physical and psychological symptoms, and can actually decrease performance over time. Failing to hydrate and nourish your body properly places additional stress on your body, complicating things further. Overtraining can lead to fatigue and burnout, and it can happen with any type of sport or exercise program, and at any age.
15 Signs and Symptoms of Overtraining Syndrome
- Changes in mood – feeling anxious, depressed, irritable, etc.
- Decreased appetite
- Weight loss
- Fatigue and lack of energy
- Muscle and joint aches and pains
- Excessive sweating and/or overheating
- Decreased interest in sports/exercise
- Decreased performance in sports/exercise
- Increased injuries
- Difficulty sleeping
- Changes in heart rate/rhythm
- Decreased immunity – getting sick more frequently
- Difficulty concentrating
- Changes in menstruation – irregular periods or cessation of periods
- Decreased libido
It’s important to note that many of these symptoms could indicate a different underlying medical condition, so be sure to talk with your doctor.
4 Tips to Prevent Overtraining Syndrome
1. DO A FULL BODY SCAN
Before you begin a workout, consider these things:
- Did you sleep well last night?
- Is your resting heart rate normal?
- Do you feel excited about the workout, or are you dreading it?
- Are your muscles and joints hurting?
- Are you injured?
- Are you sick?
- Are you hydrated?
If you answered ‘yes’ to one or more of these questions, consider taking a rest day, or scale back on the length and intensity of your exercise.
2. MONITOR YOUR HEART RATE
If you want to avoid overtraining syndrome, get into the habit of tracking your resting and recovery heart rate.
- Resting heart rate. The more conditioned you are, the lower your resting heart rate will be, so if you notice your resting heart rate going up, that’s a good indication that you’re overdoing it.
- Recovery heart rate. Your recovery heart rate, or your heart rate immediately after exercising, can also help you determine if you’re overtraining. The more fit you are, the faster your heart rate will return to normal after exercising. If it starts to take you longer to recover after your workouts, this could be a sign you need to take a break.
3. PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR MOOD
As mentioned earlier, mood disturbances are a symptom of overtraining syndrome. If you are feeling more anxious, depressed, and/or irritable than usual, you might be pushing too hard.
4. KEEP A FITNESS JOURNAL
Another great way to prevent overtraining syndrome is to regularly measure your performance and look for signs your body needs rest. The type of journal you keep depends on the sport/activity you are engaging in. For example, if you’re a runner, you can record your mileage and pace, and if you lift weights, you can record the total weight you are lifting as well as the number of reps you’re able to complete for each set. Include your perceived exertion in your journal as well as this can be helpful in determining if your workouts are starting to feel harder.
6 Tips to Help Recover from Overtraining Syndrome
Sleep deprivation, sleep disturbances, and sleeping at the wrong time (i.e. during the day versus at night) can all have negative impacts on your health and wellbeing. Quality sleep is an essential part of your overall health, both physically and mentally, and ongoing sleep deprivation can lead to issues such as heart disease, kidney disease, high blood sugar, anxiety, diabetes, stroke, weight gain, and increased body fat. Whether you’ve endured a particularly taxing workout, or suspect you have full-blown overtraining syndrome, make sure you are prioritizing sleep so your body has an opportunity to repair itself.
2. REST AND RECOVER
If you’re looking for tips to help you recover from overtraining syndrome, allowing your body time to rest may seem obvious, yet this seems to be one of the things people struggle with the most! The amount of time your body needs to recover depends on so many factors, so be sure to listen to your body, and don’t return to your normal routine until your body is truly ready. Keep in mind that, unless you are sick or injured, you can still participate in active recovery workouts like yoga, walking, swimming, etc. Once you are ready to return to your exercise regime, make sure you are scheduling at least one full rest day per week to avoid falling victim to overtraining syndrome again!
We all know H2O does the body good. From keeping us hydrated so we feel energized, to flushing out toxins and improving our complexion, to boosting our immune systems, water is where it’s at. This is especially true for those who exercise on the regular. Improper hydration can negatively impact your performance, resulting in injury. Make sure you’re drinking enough water throughout the day, and increase your intake during and after exercise.
4. BALANCE YOUR MACROS
Over-exercising often goes hand-in-hand with under-fuelling our bodies. When we set out to lose weight, we tend to get caught up in the idea that eating less and exercising more is the way to go, and while this may produce great results in the short-term, it can backfire on us. If you want to avoid overtraining syndrome, make sure you are eating the right balance of macronutrients for your activity level.
Macronutrients are a type of calorie that provide energy, and make up three major components of food:
- Carbs to fuel energy
- Fat to keep you full
- Protein to build and repair muscle
The right balance of macronutrients ensures quality results, whether you’re trying to lose or maintain weight, or build muscle, and the amount of macros you should be eating varies from person to person. Your ideal amount is called your ‘macronutrient ratio’ and takes into account your height and weight, activity level, age, and weight loss goals. You can use a macro diet calculator or meal planning app to help you find your macro ratio, or meet with a registered dietician to help you determine the best breakdown.
In addition to scheduling regular rest days so your body can recover, make sure you’re cross-training as well. Engaging in the same activities each time you exercise puts undue stress on specific muscle groups, but adding variety will give you a well-rounded workout. Cross-training can help improve your overall strength, endurance, speed, etc., and helps prevent injury, making it a great way to combat overtraining syndrome.
6. RELIEVE STRESS
Whether you are experiencing physical or mental stress – or both – finding ways to relax can be very beneficial in treating and preventing overtraining syndrome. Deep breathing, meditation, massage, stretching, and yoga are all great relaxation techniques to try. Once you find something that works for you, make sure to schedule it into your daily routine to help ward off stress and tension!
While there is nothing wrong with making exercise part of your daily routine, be careful not to overdo it. Pay attention to your body and be mindful of the signs of overtraining to help avoid fatigue and injury. And if your body is already exhibiting symptoms of overtraining, scale back. Allow time for rest and recovery, make sure you’re hydrating and nourishing your body, cross-train, and keep stress to a minimum.