8 Signs You’re Overtraining (OTS)
Are you addicted to exercise? University of Birmingham sports psychologist Ian Cockerill says you are if you organize your life around your fitness regimen instead of the other way around.
Adult exercises should be moderate in intensity and go at least 1.5 hours every week—or about 30 minutes a day for five days. But as a growing number of people equate success with having a “perfect body,” an estimated one in 200 is training not just longer but harder. The American College of Sports Medicine even advises a restricted diet of 1,200-2,000 calories plus weekly exercise of not below 250 minutes to achieve more dramatic results.
What is Overtraining?
You’re over-exercising when you do more physical activity than what your body can cope with or recover from. Runners and other athletes preparing for a competition or event can be so obsessed with working out that they develop overtraining syndrome (OTS).
You may be dealing with OTS when you experience any of the following:
- Lower performance level
A decline in strength, endurance, and agility—demonstrated by slower reaction times and reduced speed—for weeks instead of days point to overtraining. One of the ways to test this is to use a dynamometer or gripper. You may need an extended recovery period if closing the gripper becomes hard for you, or when you begin to struggle to do otherwise easy tasks.
- High resting heart rate
Another sign of OTS is an abnormally high heart rate even after exercise and throughout the day. You haven’t fully recovered from training if your resting heart rate is 5 or more additional beats higher than your normal rate. A heart rate monitor is a great accessory to have on during your exercise or even worn daily.
You may be overtraining when the exhilarating post-workout feeling never comes. Over-exercising can push down your testosterone levels and increase your cortisol or stress hormone levels, resulting in fatigue and sluggishness. Hormonal imbalance can also cause you to feel hungrier or even lose your appetite.
- Extended muscle aches and injuries
You may need to take a one-week break from training if muscle & joint pains and aches don’t improve after 72 hours. This means your body hasn’t repaired muscle tissue as quickly, making you prone to further injury.
If your excitement has dropped to zero for weeks, you might be overworking yourself. Give yourself an extra day or two of rest to recover your interest and enthusiasm.
- Sleeping problems
Cortisol release during power workouts like aero and high-intensity interval training which causes your body to be stimulated or even restless until the end of the day.
- Mood changes
You can become irritable, aggressive, or depressed due to higher cortisol levels. Take time to recharge when exercise starts to feel like a chore.
- Low immune function
High-intensity endurance exercises that go on beyond 90 minutes can make you vulnerable to bacteria and infection up to 72 hours after your workout. If you catch a cold more often and suffer from frequent headaches and congestion, take a week off.
How to Prevent Overtraining
Besides resting more, you can improve your physical performance without overworking yourself by:
- Cooling down properly
Take time to cooldown and stretch tight muscles.
- Adjusting training systematically
For training volume, aim for an additional 10% each week, i.e. go for 5 hours and 30 minutes next week after training 5 hours this week. Meanwhile, alternate heavy workouts with lighter routines every other week.
- Getting good nutrition
Check your water intake and ensure you’re getting the right amount of calories, protein, and carbs.