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Am I Overtraining?

You haven’t missed a workout in months and are proud that your strength, endurance and flexibility are improving. But, lately, you find that it’s harder than normal to get up for your early morning workout session and when you finally drag your tired body out of bed, things feel a bit off. Your muscles ache more than usual and as you hobble over to the dresser to grab your workout clothes, your joints feel rigid and stiff.

While limping down to the kitchen for breakfast, you realize that you have a dull headache and really don’t feel much like eating. Instead, you pour yourself an extra strong cup of coffee and suddenly remember tossing and turning several times throughout the night, which is probably why you feel so drained. You quickly down your coffee while talking yourself into completing your scheduled HIIT workout. But, as soon as the workout begins, you realize that your arms and legs feel as heavy as lead. Feeling slightly defeated, you decide to end the workout and take a much-needed rest day.

Sometimes, we get into a groove and don’t realize that even doing too much of a good thing, like exercising, can be harmful. We’ve been told that we need to eat a well-balanced and healthy diet and exercise several times a week to maintain a strong heart, muscles and joints, but what happens when we take it too far? Can you work out too much? And, how do you know if you are overtraining?

If you can relate to the scenario in the paragraphs above, you are more than likely overdoing it. Below are the Symptoms of Overtraining:

1.     You feel a compulsive need to exercise.

2.     You feel less hungry and/or have a decrease in appetite.

3.     You feel depressed.

4.     You experience more headaches than normal.

5.     You experience an increase in injuries.

6.     You have trouble sleeping.

7.     You feel a lack of energy, extra tired or drained.

8.     You experience a loss of enthusiasm and motivation for exercise.

9.     Your immunity is lowered (i.e. see an increase in the number of colds, sore throats, other illnesses).

10.  You experience mild leg soreness and general aches and pains.

11.  You feel moodier and more irritable.

12.  You feel pain in your muscles and joints.

13.  You see a reduction in your training capacity/intensity.

14.  You see a sudden drop in your performance (i.e. fewer reps performed, less weight lifted, a decrease in mileage).

15.  You see an increase in your resting heart rate.

If you find that you are experiencing symptoms of overtraining, your body and mind are trying to tell you that it’s time to take a step back from your current workout routine. Rest assured, there are a few easy remedies that you can try in order to get back on track:

  • Rest and Recover: Taking several days, or even a couple of weeks, off from exercise will give your body the time it needs to repair and restore. During this time of rest and recovery, you can engage in low-impact movement such as walking, stretching or yoga. These stress-free forms of exercise won’t tax your body and will allow you to experience the freedom and joy of movement again.
  • Cross-train: If you aren’t feeling totally depleted physically, but still desire a change of scenery from your normal workout routine, you can experiment with new and different forms of exercise. If you’re a runner, you might enjoy cycling or spinning. If you’re a heavy weight-lifter, you might want to concentrate on more mindful movements by participating in Pilates or other bodyweight-focused exercises.
  • Hydrate: Water plays a vital role in restoring and repairing injured muscles, tendons and tissues. Even if you aren’t sweating as much during your scheduled breather, be sure to drink as much water (if not more) than you were during your performance peak.
  • Get a massage: Whether you enjoy visiting your local spa or using your foam roller at home, your muscles will thank you for some self-care. Massaging tired and sore muscles will help loosen up knots in your fascia and leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. Follow-up your massage or foam rolling session with an Epsom salt bath for total mind and body boosting results.

After you’ve given yourself some time to heal and are ready to jump back into your former workout routine, remember to take it easy and listen to your body. We often think that the signs our bodies are giving us are temporary or just a reaction to something we “tweaked” or “pulled.” But, if we continue to overdo it, we may not be able to avoid falling into the overtraining trap. Just like our food choices, we need to keep our workouts well-balanced. A practical combination of strength, cardio and restorative workouts, such as two to three toning sessions, two moderate steady state cardio workouts and one to two yoga or stretching classes per week, will keep you feeling fit, fast and flexible instead of defeated.

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