An athlete goes full throttle, in the gym and often in the rest of his life. At some point, however, there are phases in which fatigue gains the upper hand. Life feels like you have to set a new bench press record every day. The problem is: Your muscles don't grow from it, don't recover. It only burns and drains you. If this condition persists, accompanies you for several weeks or even months, then caution is advised. Your body sounds the alarm. You may be overtraining, your fitness is suffering.
But how do you learn to tell the difference between overtraining and a long-term soreness or a bad weekend? What can you do to get your immune system back on track and your gains back on track? We provide you with incentives and background knowledge.
The Definition: What is Overtraining?
According to the Academy for Sport and Health, overtraining describes a physical or mental state of overload that is caused by insufficient recovery. Overtraining occurs when an ambitious athlete ignores their physical limits and trains longer, harder and more often than is good for them. The result is symptoms that can range from a cold to depression or muscle injuries. So think of overtraining as someone running into a solid rock wall. The first time, they might just scrape their skin. The second time, the abrasion gets deeper. With each additional pass, the pain increases. This pain could have been avoided. The wall-runner could have simply stepped back and breathed. Maybe there would have been a way over the wall, maybe around the outside of the wall. The only wrong way was to keep trying to bang your head through the proverbial wall. Sports and real life are often closer together than you might think.
Is every irritated body overtraining?
Where does overtraining start and where does it end? Is every sporting stimulus potentially too much? The answer is easy and difficult to give at the same time. Because the answer is yes and no.
Muscles are stimulated by pushing them to their limits. But is that why you overdid your training? Not necessarily. You then pulled off too many squats and burpees when your immune system went on strike afterwards. If you just feel suitably tired, you can start again the next day or the day after that. It might help you to understand overtraining and its signs with an example: Let's stay with the burpees. The first day you make 100 of these, the next day again. However, this unit also includes 100 squats and 80 devil presses. On the third day you go for a run. Afterwards, how could it be otherwise, 100 burpees again. At this point at the latest, your knees may start to hurt and your back may feel unusually tense. But on the fourth and fifth day, units in the gym follow again, maybe they even get more intense.
Do you notice what's missing? That's right, the regeneration, the break for the mind and quadriceps. You undoubtedly left your weaker self and your ego at the gym door; your common sense and your gut feeling at the same time. Overtraining comes from not being able to breathe deeply. That's why there is no uniform formula to avoid it. Someone who works shifts and uses functional fitness to balance their stressful work has a different recovery rate than a well-paid part-time individual with no obligations or problems. At this point, we'll give you a tip to help you get ahead in sports without burning out: Always listen to yourself and actively pay attention to how you're doing. Just because a training program, workout, or daily routine looks easy and doable in your environment doesn't mean it applies to you. The best way to avoid overtraining is to respond to stress on your body with relief.
Signs of overtraining:
We can tell you a lot about why you get into a phase of overtraining. But how can you recognize overtraining?
(If you feel seriously ill or have a health problem, please consult a healthcare professional. We cannot give medical advice, let alone a generalized article written for online use.)
Unusually painful muscle soreness
Muscle soreness usually occurs one to two days after the workout and lasts just as long, with some sports even longer. It is caused by an unusual stress that is exerted on joints and fibers and thus forces the organism to exert itself. Functional fitness often causes sore muscles because the sets and repetitions are worked through in small parts. As a result, you can create a lot of volume within a short time, move a lot of weight, run longer distances over time and so on.
After training, water is retained, which causes the muscles to be stretched. Tension builds up as the liquid “settles” into the fibers. If you maintain this state permanently, your arms and legs will feel like a huge bruise, like a bruise without discoloration.
Here it depends on your experience in sports. Ask yourself: is it normal for you to have such a severe drop in performance? If not, take this as a signal. If certain movements under a barbell or even as a bodyweight movement feel like you're injured, this does the rest. If you were pain-free before and are no longer pain-free, then there is a need for action. However, the need for action is not to go straight back to sport.
Stress when thinking about training
Many discuss overtraining purely in terms of physical symptoms. But mental fitness is becoming more and more important and must therefore be addressed by us as well.
Do you feel good doing sports? Great. It should be exactly like this. Likewise, there are days when you have to torture yourself to the gym, to the box. You don't feel like it, the weather is nice, sport isn't really your number one priority right now. Nothing wrong with that either. It becomes worrying when you get nervous before exercising and thoughts creep in that don't belong in your head.
Pressure belongs in front of the door. You don't have to get better in every session, you don't have to beat your best front squat every time. You don't have to train multiple times a day. However, what you can do is important here. You can skip a workout if you'd rather have a night out on the couch. You can change your training plan if it would otherwise prevent you from exercising at all. You can even switch sports and jump from functional fitness to wakeboarding. The main thing is and remains that you believe in yourself and feel good after you move. Otherwise, you're probably asking too much of yourself.
A lot of sleep
Sleep is the silver bullet for you to regain strength. But there is also a lot of sleep that can become too much for you. There is no benchmark here. People get by with five hours a night and feel reborn the next morning, others are useless under nine hours a night. To get started, stick to the general credo of 8 hours of healthy sleep for adequate regeneration. If we continue to calculate, then 10 hours of sleep over weeks and months is certainly not healthy, is it?
Pay attention to the following factors in your everyday life: Are you constantly tired? If so, then maybe sleep hygiene is your problem. However, if your smartphone is in another room long before you fall asleep, the windows are darkened, you get fresh air and you fall asleep quickly, then there is no catch. The fault lies in other areas of your daily routine, possibly the gym.
From now on, only try and error will help, unless you have sleep tracking or other tools available. Slow down your exercise routine and see if you feel better. If so, then you have averted the damage caused by overtraining and after a while you can step on the gas again.
Persistent symptoms of illness after exercise
This symptom follows on from what we have already explained to you in point number 1. Functional fitness, bodybuilding or MMA as a sport live from the fact that you suffer. It can happen that you get dizzy or nauseous after a workout that puts a high strain on your circulation. In theory, there is nothing to worry about here. It becomes overtraining when these border crossings become normal. No sport in the world, no workout and no record is worth seeing your breakfast a second time on a regular basis.
Things like fluctuations in your body temperature or frequent chills are also not healthy. This can also apply to headaches or coughs. However, your water and mineral balance can also be disrupted by sweating and exertion. So before you prematurely diagnose yourself with overtraining, interrupt your workout with drinking breaks, also with the addition of EAA's.
What can you do for your regeneration?
Once you have realized that you have overloaded yourself, the solution is obvious in the first instance. The overload has to become a burden again. So reduce your workload in the first instance. Then it can be useful to switch your training plan to active recovery. Here you do light workouts. The emphasis is on easy. Watch your pulse, now is not the time for best performances. An ice bath can also help to relax.
To keep it short: Keep moving, keep your head clear and do what you think is right. Afterwards you will automatically feel better because you no longer overthink what you can no longer change anyway.
Overtraining: Acute Help
Here, too, we can only give you a few ideas: To begin with, work on the tight, aching muscles with a massage gun. This increases blood flow. If you would like to do it more professionally than doing it yourself, book an appointment with the Thai massage and after a few days an appointment with the physiotherapist you trust. But please stay calm. Just because you've decided to take a break from sport doesn't mean you have to start looking for the next fight. Your body is sending you a clear message: Don't exert yourself. The order of the day is rest.
One last tip: Next Sunday is reserved for a family pizza. Only for you!