Signs of Overtraining: Train Smarter Not Harder

We have all heard the motto, “No pain, no gain.” Well, more is not always better. Training can be very rewarding and exhilarating, but over-training can be very draining and taxing on the mind and body. We all believe that the increased effort and time we put into training creates for better results. Whether you are training for a competition or just enthusiastic about that New Year’s resolution, check out some signs and symptoms below that your gung ho training methods might need a little adjusting.

Here are a few signs of overtraining:

1. Decreased performance. Have you ever gone out for a run and your legs feel like lead? This is a sign that your body hasn’t recovered from your last workout, and usually the first sign of over-training.

2. Increased heart rate. If you feel like your heart is pounding before you have had your morning java, and it is racing as you go up the stairs, then place this sign on the checklist to pull back on training.

3. Depressed immune system. You might find it easier to catch a cold or feel run down. When our body is broken down from over-training, it is much easier to catch a simple cold that will throw off your routine.

4. Heavy legs and sore, achy muscles. This is a sign of over-training and could be the precursor to an injury. I like to tell my clients to “listen to your body.” If it is feeling as tired and lethargic, then your form will be compromised while working out, and when your form is compromised, it is easier to develop injuries.

5. Increased perceived exertion. If everything feels as though it requires more effort, then pull back and lessen the load. Other characteristics are insomnia, moodiness, and lack of enthusiasm.

How do I get out of my rut and back on the road?

1. Reduce or stop your exercise and allow a few days of rest. Remember it takes 24-48 hours for a muscle to repair and restore itself to become stronger and leaner.

2. Drink plenty of fluids and alter your diet if necessary. Our body needs a minimum of eight cups of water a day without training, bump it up to allow for the hours of training. Sports drinks should only be used when appropriate.

3. Cross-training is key. If your body is overworked, then cross-training or mixing it up can give your body a workout without the stress of pounding every day. For example, if you are training for a marathon or road race, take a few days on the elliptical, yoga or in the pool. This will also help you discover if you are physically or mentally fatigued.

4. Create a training log. Jot down your daily activities every day. Write down how you feel after training on a scale of 1-10. For example, do you feel tired, invigorated, excited to do it again or burnt out?
Five-time Olympic gold-medalist swimmer Natalie Coughlin, who let me into a few of her secrets to becoming a world champion. Fifty percent of Natalie’s training is out of the water. She trains smart and efficiently to hold back some of her juices for competition. It was so interesting to learn her training techniques and how her body became faster and more efficient by cross-training to avoid over-training and becoming burn out. She also incorporates Pilates and strength training into her training to prepare for each competition.

Remember, training is about working with your body at the state it is in today. Every day is a little different, so as I always say, “Listen to your body,” and it will tell you what to do. Follow its advice.

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