How to Tell if You're Overtraining

“Crack.”

That was the sound of my neck one evening.

Now I’ll be the first one to tell you that cracking bones is no abnormal occurance for me. I’m a regular snap-crackle-and-pop machine (it creeps the hell out of my sister).

But this crack… this one wasn’t normal.

The pain started soon after. I lost the ability to turn my head to the right, and shooting knife-like sensations started firing into the back of my neck any time I tried to move it like a normal human neck is supposed to move.

I tried to sleep, hoping the night’s rest would make the pain go away, but I had no such luck. I called up my chiropractor the next morning and she agreed to meet me within a few hours.

Turns out, the knife-like pain in my neck was nothing serious. The chiropractor gave me a very painful massage and a few adjustments, then sent me on my way, telling me to rest, rest, rest!

But the whole episode got me thinking. This weird can’t-move-my-neck experience has actually happened to me once before. I’ve also knocked a rib out of place a couple of times—an incredibly painful experience.

What did all these painful experiences have in common? I’d been training a lot, doing something heart poundingly hard nearly every single day… but each time, had forgotten to take any time to recover.

In short, I was overtraining.

What is overtraining?

According to Wikipedia, this is the technical definition of overtraining:

“Overtraining is a physical, behavioral, and emotional condition that occurs when the volume and intensity of an individual’s exercise exceeds their recovery capacity. They cease making progress, and can even begin to lose strength and fitness. Overtraining is a common problem in weight training, but it can also be experienced by runners and other athletes.”

As you might have guessed, it’s something you want to avoid at all costs.

Are you overtraining?

The reason why overtraining is not all that uncommon (yes, even for personal trainers and seasoned athletes), is that symptoms of overtraining can be hard to recognize.

Basically, you need to learn to listen to your body, and increase rest and recovery when you start feeling a little off.

If you’ve never experienced it before, here are several symptoms to look out for:

  • Decreased energy
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Irritability
  • High blood pressure
  • Higher resting heart rate
  • Early onset of fatigue
  • Lack of interest in exercise
  • Injury

How to avoid it

There’s no surefire way to avoid overtraining, and it’s often something learned over time.

But if you follow these guidelines, the possibility that you’ll experience it will decrease significantly:

  • Don’t try to do too much at once—take it slow at first, especially if you’re just starting out
  • Ensure that you always have proper nutrition
  • Aim for seven to eight hours of sleep every night
  • Rest—take at least one day off a week!
  • Get plenty of active recovery time (do some yoga, stretch, take epsom salt baths, whatever your body needs to keep happy)

Just remember… too much exercise—just like anything else—can do more harm than good.

Take care of yourself, and your body will thank you for it.

Image credit: Djma

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