Everybody talks about overtraining nowadays but do they really know what it means exactly?
To get this started, I made a short explanation of what overtraining means.
Overtraining is a situation in which there is a long term imbalance between the recovery processes and training load.
This imbalance leads to a steady decrement in performance that takes more than 1-3 weeks to return to normal levels.
Overtraining is present in every gym nowadays. Because we live in a stressful daily life, and we also exercise ourselves into the ground. You can see guys training for 2-3 hours, 6 days/week with high intensity all the time.
How much it will take before he breaks. How much recovery will he need then?
First, I want you to make a small distinction between overtraining and overreaching.
Both are a problem for you but you have to analyze the way you feel, and the way your body recuperates to see in which state you might be at that respective moment.
Summarizing this, overreaching occurs when you see a drop or plateau in performance for some time. You feel tired all the time, you don’t really have the strength and will to get back in the gym. You want to quit. But the thing is that it takes 1-3 weeks of rest for you to fully recover from that situation, and feel like new.
With overtraining, the situation is different. It will take you more than 1-3 weeks of rest. It will make a bigger mark on your nervous system. It will also put you down for quite a while.
The reality is that overtraining is quite rare. I never really saw true overtraining symptoms on other people except me (I was really obsessed with going to the gym when I was younger. I was training 6 days/week, and eating too little. When I got overtrained, I was unable to go to the gym for a few months).
Getting back to overtraining & overreaching symptoms, what usually happens is that we have a person that has normally lifted and performed at a certain level. All of the sudden, they will simply not be able to hit their numbers (be it weight on bar, time in track, reps, etc.).
Now, some of you might be tempted to believe you are overtrained or overreached just because you missed your last workout. You can have the same symptoms an overtrained person has (inability to lift the same weight, tiredness, low morale), but the difference is the period of time you are feeling like this.
You can pretty much be only tired for that workout. The best thing to do when you feel tired for a day is to just take it as a lighter day, finish the workout fast. Go home.
You don’t need to worry about overtraining or overreaching just because you had one bad day.
What causes overtraining?
There are some variables that influence the way you perform in the long term in the gym. They dictate if you will get overtrained, and when.
They are: training load and recovery processes.
Using a constant high load, repetitions to failure, not getting enough rest, not getting enough nutrition, will most likely put a mark on your body.
You can also add lifestyle factors like: stress, job, family, etc.
All of these can get you to overreaching fast, and even overtraining if you are not careful.
Before getting ahead into overtraining, I want you to make a few notes about when true overtraining occurs:
- You cannot overtrain from a single workout
- You cannot overtrain in 1-2 weeks of hard training
- When you get to a month, you can experience the early signs of overtraining
- Go further into training 2-3 months with imbalanced nutrition and training, and things will get serious
- Continue like that for a longer period of time and you know what is next
- Higher frequency of illness
- Lack of motivation
- Inability of sleep
- Lack of appetite
- Constant muscular fatigue
- Lack of motivation to train
- Increased resting blood pressure and heart rate
Overtraining is a serious matter. My primary focus is to help you acknowledge it and also teach you what you have to do in order to avoid it.
How To Prevent Overtraining?
The very first thing you have to do to prevent overtraining is to make sure your training program is set right.
I see too many coaches using the same training program they use for a 20 year old male, with a 40 year old women. This is not only inappropriate but also dangerous when it comes to overreaching & overtraining. It is dumb but it happens all the time.
I will look into various rules you can apply right now to help you prevent any kind of overreaching or overtraining. Before you apply these rules, make sure your diet, supplementation, recovery, and sleep are in check. You don’t want to skip these.
Rules of preventing overtraining & overreaching:
- Limit the number of high intensity workouts every week – when you train with big weights, 2-4 high intensity workouts every week are enough. This is especially true when you are also dieting.
- Cycle your training – while you can try training all day long with big weights, you will eventually plateau. Many athletes back off the weight and try to get it slowly back and over what they used to lift. Avoid training for months with high intensity without backing off a little bit. This is also known as deloading.
- Schedule your workouts accordingly – if you train 4 days per week, don’t try to train day after day. Instead, you can train 2 days, take 1 day off, continue training for 2 days, take 2 days off. This is just an example. As a rule of thumb, after 2 days of training, take 1 day of rest.
- Listen to your body – usually, if you feel very tired at the start of a workout, and you finished warming up but you still feel like crap, the best thing to do is to call it a day and go home. Eat well, rest well, and come back the next workout stronger. Most people fail to listen to their body because they believe that skipping a workout will make a huge impact on their progress. That tired day will make a negative impact on your progress if you don’t listen to your body. There is a reason your body tells you to go home. Listen to your body.
Now that you know what overtraining means, and how you can prevent it I hope you will be more careful with what you are doing.
One last thing. What do you do if you overtrain?
If you feel the effects of overtraining, it is a little more complicated to get rid of them.
A strategy that always works is to start by first taking 5-7 days off from training. Just do your normal things, take some brisk walks, enjoy some free time, eat, and recover. If you also afford massage, go and enjoy some. Sauna maybe. Salt baths, and relaxation.
If you don’t normally stretch, it would be a good time to incorporate it.
Another point I want to make is to never try to diet during the recovery period. You need all the calories you can get. Just eat well and don’t overstress about it. You are not going to recover from overtraining if you keep pushing yourself. Make sure you eat a good amount of carbohydrates to keep your hormones and glycogen restocked.
How to get back into training after the recovery period?
This is another area where many people do mistakes. They get right back into training with the same volume and weights they previously used. Don’t do that.
If it took you 4 weeks to get back on your feet, your work capacity and fitness will be down. The nice thing about the rest period is muscle memory. Even if you’ve lost some muscle (which is slight to none because you should eat well), you will recover the muscle mass faster than usual.
Well, from my experience, it should take you double the rest period to get back on track. If it took you 2 weeks of rest to be completely recovered, it will take you 4 weeks to be right back on track.
This is not a long period even if you might see it like that now. Think about it. If you continue training even if you are overtrained, and don’t take this rest period seriously, you will have to sit back a longer period of time to be fully recovered.
This is all about overreaching and overtraining. Take them serious and watch out what you are doing in the gym. Remember, more is not always necessarily better.
- Overtraining and overreaching have similar effects on you: impaired capacity to train, no will to train, constant muscular fatigue, inability to sleep well, increased heart rate and blood pressure
- Overreaching is an easy version of overtraining. Overreaching should go away in 5-7 days most of the time
- Overtraining is an exaggerate version of overreaching and is real. If you train too intense, with too much volume, for long period of times, and without sufficient caloric intake, you might be susceptible to overtraining.
Overtraining symptoms should take 2-6 weeks of rest before it is completely gone.