SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF OVERTRAINING.
A dangerous pitfall on the road to heavy training
The signs and symptoms of overtraining or Overtraining Syndrome (OTS) is an extreme medical condition that is instigated by excessive physical training. Fitness enthusiasts are regularly sweating it out in the gym, tearing the muscles as the body gets subjected to strength and endurance-based stress. Of course, they do it because they know the muscles will only come back even bigger & stronger to cope with the strain it gets subjected to. However, when the body receives more damage than it can repair or when adequate recovery time is not provided, the body has a chronic reaction that reverses its regular behaviour and the muscles instead of building, start deteriorating. For a more detailed analysis of what really happens to our body in this condition, read Overtraining Definition.
IS OVERTRAINING EVEN REAL?
There are numerous scientific and medical fitness studies that confirm Overtraining Syndrome as a very real and a very chronic side effect of excessive and intensive physical exercises without an adequate recovery period. However, OTS is not developed overnight and requires a tremendous amount of stress to be exerted on the body over a prolonged period of time. That is why when the average gym-goer complains about Overtraining, it is debunked by many “experts” as just an excuse. For a clearer understanding of the myths and facts of overtraining, read my article Is Overtraining real?
Like I said earlier, Overtraining is a chronic disorder and unlike popular belief, it affects the Central Nervous System (CNS) more than the muscular system. Besides physical training, other life factors such as diet, work environment etc also contribute to OTS.
10 Signs and Symptoms of Overtraining
Since OTS affects the central nervous system, the symptoms of overtraining are not just physical. Psychological symptoms caused by OTS is often not accounted for or tends to get ignored altogether. The CNS also affects the nervous, immune, cardiovascular, hormonal, endocrine and the musculoskeletal system. A prolonged presence of some the following symptoms is a sign you might be overtraining.
WEIGHT LOSS AND DROP-IN STRENGTH LEVELS
When you overtrain, the cortisol level in your body spikes and the muscles enter a catabolic state, where it starts losing muscle mass instead of building it. Although the breaking down of muscle is important to its growing back bigger and stronger, in this case, however, the breaking down of muscle extends beyond the helpful level. Lack of adequate rest and nourishment is a major reason for this condition.
FEELING LETHARGIC OR RESTLESS
Common with excessive endurance and stamina type exercises, the cortisol level in the body spikes while the testosterone level drops resulting in overall fatigue. when this condition is prolonged, it is a sign of overtraining.
As with the above, the testosterone and serotonin levels drop as the cortisol spikes in the body. While testosterone is responsible for overall wellbeing, the serotonin hormone is responsible for making you feel good. Depression is often overlooked and can also result in other lifestyle changes that further harm the body.
ELEVATED RESTING HEART RATE
Measuring the morning heart rate gives us the resting heart rate. Overtraining causes an unusual spike in adrenaline levels and increases the sympathetic nervous activity that results in elevating the resting heart rate.
RESTLESSNESS AND LACK OF FOCUS
A common side effect of high-intensity training is an increase in the sympathetic nervous activity which goes into a frenzy in the case of an overtraining resulting in general restlessness and the ability to maintain focus and concentration.
INSOMNIA AND ANXIETY
Since the nervous system into an overdrive, it is very common to a be unable to calm the mind and to suffer insomnia. Lack of sleep is a major cause of concern since the sleep state is where the body recovers and repairs itself the most. With overtraining, the cortisol levels are also spiked, which means that the body is on high alert resulting in an anxiety disorder.
FEELING MOODY OR IRRITABLE ALL THE TIME
Fatigue, Lack of sleep, depression, anxiety etc along with the elevated cortisol levels are the classic ingredients to make one feel moody and irritable all the time.
PROLONGED SORENESS, ILLNESSES, AND INJURY
Although soreness of the body is part of the training, overtraining, however, results in chronic soreness of the muscles and joints that tend to last for a long time. Since the body is in a catabolic state, injuries become common and the healing process takes longer than usual. Add to all these factors that the immune system is also compromised and the onset of illnesses are only a matter of time.
With overtraining, since the body is in a catabolic state where the muscle is deteriorating, the body is in a constant dehydrated state. In such a state, no matter how many fluids one consumes the thirst never seems to go away.
LACK OF MOTIVATION
Often dismissed as just laziness, lack of motivation and the enthusiasm to workout coupled with the above-mentioned factors are often an indicator of overtraining syndrome
It should be clear to you by now that subjecting the body to more stress than it can recover from is what causes the overtraining syndrome. When rapidly increasing the training volume, you must also be mindful of the amount of rest the body gets and that the diet is sufficient enough to compensate for the damage caused by the increased training activities.
“Someone who does physically intensive work at a construction site will have a body that has received more stress than for someone who works at the library.”
Although most fitness enthusiast and trainers alike often do keep an eye on the stress put on the body during training, what most people don’t account for is the individual lifestyle factors such as work environment. This must be taken into account when deciding on a training routine. And lastly, the most important factor contributing to the onset of OTS or to its recovery is the DIET. unless the body receives the correct nourishment to compensate for what has been lost, the healing and recovery process will be prolonged.
AM I OVERTRAINING?
After reading all these scary consequences of training hard, surely you must be wondering about your own training routine and its effects on your body. Although a more educated diagnosis by an expert will be required to confirm this, a simple way to test yourself is to test your grip strength.
Before starting your next workout, place suitable weights on a barbell and lift and time the duration for which you can grip it comfortably. This gives you a benchmark measurement of your grip strength. Repeat the process every couple of months to make sure your grip strength hasn’t fallen.
“The aim of fitness training is to burn the fat and build the muscles. Excessive training or Overtraining will only burn the muscles and your energy!”
As the age-old saying goes, prevention is better than cure! You only need to pay attention to what your body tells you. Science and logic point to giving the body enough rest in proportion to the damage received. If you don’t give it enough rest you will only be breaking it down further without any chance for it to build. Another important fact is that the body does not build itself out of thin air. It depends on you to provide the necessary amount of carbohydrates, proteins, and other nutrients to repair and build upon the damage caused by training.
Have you had any personal experience with any of the symptoms of overtraining? let us know through your comment how you overcame it. And if you have friends obsessed with having a superhuman built, share this article with them to make sure they are aware of the symptoms of overtraining, before it’s too late.
On a final note, remember that if you give your body adequate rest and the proper diet to compensate for the damage while making sure not to put over excessive strain on the body, overtraining will be something you don’t ever have to lose sleep over!
Krix Luther is a Health and Fitness Specialist and one of Asia’s leading Personal Trainers. He is an Ex Professional Muay Thai fighter and Avid Free Diver. At the same time as being a very active person he also has a passion for gaming and has his own Twitch stream. If you have any questions for him, you can contact him via his Instagram.