How long have you been working out? How long are your exercise
sessions? How intense? Are you seeing the results you are looking
How long have you been working out? How long are your exercise sessions? How intense? Are you seeing the results you are looking for?
Commitment to an exercise regime is great, but as with anything, you can get too much of a good thing. In the case of an exercise program this can translate into having the opposite effect on what you are trying to achieve.
Experts agree that “overtraining,” a condition where the body has performed too much work without balancing the workload with enough rest, can be detrimental to an individual trying to reach particular goals.
Exercise can move out of the range of being a healthy “habit” to being an “obsession.” While its okay to make exercising a lifestyle, and miss it if you skip a day, it is possible to go to the extreme and become “addicted.”
Recovery time is a critical element to the success of your workout. The body needs time to repair, build, or replace tissue and replenish energy stores. A recovery period of one or two days also provides a mental break as well as the physical break.
Overtraining can be hard to detect, but one of the most common signs is an unexplained drop in performance levels that does not resolve itself with a couple of days of rest. If you find yourself struggling with workouts that had previously been tolerable, you may be in this situation.
There are other indications of overtraining as well.
Among them are: restless sleep; losing interest in your workout; fatigue; prolonged muscle soreness; injuries that do not heal; unusually high resting heart rate; decreased appetite; weight loss; mood swings (irritability, depression); loss of menstrual flow in women.
It is fairly common for the psychological symptoms to manifest themselves before the physical symptoms do. However, it is often difficult to pinpoint them as signs of overtraining as opposed to indications of other problems.
Overtraining is a condition that can be prevented through balance. There is a fine line between challenging the body enough to see the desired changes, and acknowledging when you have given the body too much stress that it becomes “stale.” The key is finding the right balance of time spent in the gym, the intensity of your workout, and types/modalities of exercise.
Are you getting enough rest days? One rest day per week is the minimum, but if you are involved in a more intense program, more rest days may be warranted. When you are in the gym, are you spending more than 1-2 hours working out? If so, you are probably doing too much.
How intense is your program? Is it appropriate for the goals you are trying to achieve? Do you alternate easy and hard days/easy and hard week? Sustained levels of higher intensity workouts (longer than three weeks) are more likely to result in overtraining.
Boredom may also be a contributing factor. If you do the same workout over and over again for too long, or if you are working the same muscle in the same way several times in the one workout, your muscles will get stale, and will not respond in the same way they previously were. This will cause you to feel the need to work harder, thus over-stressing the muscles even more. Implementing variety or cross-training is the key to avoiding this.
Once you have hit the point of overtraining, the amount of recovery time is dependent on the severity of the problem. A longer-term problem will take longer to recover from. If you find this is has happened to you, rest is the best medicine.
The upshot of all this… exercising is good for your health. Too much exercise is not.
If you have any questions, contact your fitness professional or call me @ (408) 776-1617. For copies of this article, or previous articles, contact me @ Gold’s Gym of Morgan Hill.
Karen Frost is the Wellness Director for Gold’s Gym of Morgan Hill. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Physical Education from New York University, and is certified by the American Council on Exercise as a Personal Trainer and a Lifestyle and Weight Management Consultant.