Sometimes less is more, and this is even the case when it comes to exercising. Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting working out once a week is better than working out 4 times a week, however, there are some real downsides to overtraining.
- Weakness and pain - One of the most common tell tale signs that you are overtraining is the fact that your muscles won't have the time needed to recover. This means that you will notice a decrease in your muscle strength as well as likely experiencing prolonged pain (DOMs) because you are not giving your muscles the time they need to repair and rebuild any stressed and torn muscle fibers.
- Reduced progress - As I mentioned above, the fact that you are not giving your muscles the time they need to recover means that your muscles will be weaker and you will notice that your progress slows down, stops or even goes backward!
- Risk of injury - Along with the weakened muscles and reduced progress, you also increase your risk of injury by pushing your muscles when they are not yet recovered.
- Increase in cortisol levels - Another risk of overtraining is an increase in the stress hormone cortisol, in your body. Each time you exercise you are putting your body under stress. Even though this is a good thing, because this is how you rebuild your muscles stronger and more resilient than before, pushing your body to overtrain causes chronic stress which increases your cortisol levels. Prolonged high levels of cortisol in your body have numerous side effects, one of which is an increase in appetite and cravings for fatty or sugary foods.
- Adrenal fatigue - Another serious risk of overtraining is adrenal fatigue. There are several types of adrenal fatigue, one of which is called ‘Overtraining syndrome’, or ‘OS’, which is when your adrenal glands becoming so depleted that they struggle to produce enough cortisol and adrenalin when it is needed.
Not sure how to tell if you are overtraining? Well for starters, you probably aren’t at risk of over training unless you are training every day, without allowing time in between for your different muscles groups to recover, or training for extended periods of time. However, if you think this could be you, then here are some signs that could indicate that you are pushing yourself a little too far:
- Decreased performance
- Chronic fatigue or exhaustion
- Metabolic imbalances
- Increased moodiness
- (very) Sore muscles that take several days for the pain to ease
Remember that even though exercise is important for good health, it can also put the body under some stress, so, for this reason, it is very important that you incorporate rest days, active recovery, good nutrition and sufficient sleep to your list of priorities!