Post by Emily White
As we all know, too much of anything can be a bad thing. Your fitness and training regime is no exception. Over training or more specifically under recovering is common amongst athletes but is now also becoming more prevalent amongst us ‘average Joes’.
With a training regime, the recovery is just as if not more important then the actual routine itself. It is during your recovery that your body improves or makes those ‘gains’ so to speak. It makes sense; you want greater results from the gym so you increase the time you spend in there. Squat progress stalled? Squat more! Fat loss stalled? More cardio! However this can be a vicious cycle and if it affects your body’s ability to recover, chances are it’s going to affect your ability to make those gains that you are so desperately seeking.
When someone is over training or not recovering sufficiently, your health and performance may suffer. Sometimes it can mean poor energy, fatigue, or just not getting the results that you feel you should (1). In an individual that is overtraining, you may see a decrease in anabolic hormones and an increase in catabolic hormones, such as cortisol (2). Now cortisol is an essential hormone for human health, when secreted at appropriate levels, but when cortisol levels are elevated, and remain so for a long period of time, it can wreak havoc on normal bodily functioning. In fact studies suggest that high cortisol can result in an increase in fat storage (3). Not an ideal result for anyone!
There is a huge array of symptoms when it comes to overtraining, so it is important to be aware of the different markers that can be associated with it. Possible indicators include immune system suppression (you seem to come down with every virus going around), deteriorating aerobic and cardiac efficiency, low mood, poor sleep, feeling that your muscles are always sore or aren’t recovering as well as they should or poor performance in sport specific tests (such as time trials or just an overall decrease in gym performance) (1).
In order to ensure you are not at risk of overtraining, it is important to focus on good, proper recovery. It can be beneficial to any training regime to prioritize some time out each day to relax, that could mean meditation or a warm bath and will help to reduce those stress hormones in the body. Also ensuring you are eating quality nutritious food and eating enough to support your exercise regime is important. Take note of your sleeping patterns, aim for 7-9 hours of restful sleep each night as sleep is the number one way to repair from the stresses of life and training (4).
It is important not to forget that training is both a combination of work and rest and that improvement does not occur during the work aspect, only once your body has recovered. Train smarter, not harder in order to get the results that you want.
1. Fry, R., Morton, A., & Keast, D. (1991). Overtraining in Athletes. Sports Medicine, 12(1), 32-65. doi: 10.2165/00007256-199112010-00004
2. Meeusen, R., Piacentini, M. F., Busschaert, B., Buyse, L., De Schutter, G., & Stray-Gundersen, J. (2004). Hormonal responses in athletes: the use of a two bout exercise protocol to detect subtle differences in (over)training status. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 91(2-3), 140-146. doi: 10.1007/s00421-003-0940-1
3. Björntorp, P. Body fat distribution, insulin resistance, and metabolic diseases. Nutrition, 13(9), 795-803. doi: 10.1016/S0899-9007(97)00191-3
4. Meeusen, R., Duclos, M., Foster, C., Fry, A., Gleeson, M., Nieman, D., . . . Urhausen, A. (2013). Prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of the overtraining syndrome: joint consensus statement of the European College of Sport Science and the American College of Sports Medicine. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 45(1), 186-205. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e318279a10a