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Overtraining: What Are The Physical Impacts?

You don’t have to go far to hear about the amazing life-changing benefits of a workout. You can boost your mood, strengthen your heart and your biceps in only 30 minutes a day!

But, what if your regular fitness routine started to actually hurt you instead of help you?

What if your workout no longer left you feeling energized and strong? What if, instead, you felt exhausted, burnt-out and even injured? 

Overtraining is a thing. 

And it’s not just among elite athletes either. The average Joe/Jane who just wants to get in shape is not immune to the effects of overtraining. 

Overtraining Syndrome or OTS has been defined as a maladapted response to excessive exercise without adequate rest [1]. 

Essentially, your body will give you very clear feedback that something is off. And it’s important to know the warning signs so you know when to put the brakes on your fitness routine.

The 5 Warning Signs of Overtraining

Here are the top 5 physical warning signs that you may be overdoing it with your workouts… 

  1. Your performance is tanking (rather than continuing to improve!)

You most likely started working out to improve your performance. Maybe you wanted to improve your time for a 10km race. But a few months into your training, you’re only getting slower, not faster.  

Decreased performance is one of the first warning signs that your training regime has gotten a little too intense and you may need to back off [2]. 

  1. Your hormones are out of whack

Hormones can take a big hit when it comes to overtraining. For example, a woman may notice irregular or completely missed periods due to dipping estrogen levels [3].   

Some female athletes have even considered this a sign that they’re training at a high enough intensity. The reality is, a missed period is a sign that something is off in your body, and over time, it can be linked with bone density loss and osteoporosis. 

And it’s not just a problem for the ladies! Both men and women can experience prolonged elevation of cortisol levels; a hormone that promotes fat storage, muscle breakdown and decreases your immune system [4]. 

  1. You’re always sore and you keep getting hurt

Injuries can happen any time you start a new fitness regime. It’s an unfortunate part of the game. But if your injuries are starting to pile up and aren’t healing as quickly as they should, it may be time to pull back a bit.

Joe Park, an Orthopedic Surgeon with the University of Virginia Health System suggests that if pain doesn’t subside in 10-14 days, something might be amiss and should be assessed by a doctor [5]. 

  1. You’re really moody

Your friends and family members may notice you’re a bit more irritable these days. If you’re feeling a bit more moody or agitated, take a look at your training plan to see if it needs to be tweaked.

  1. You’re soooooo tired

It’s normal to have days where you’re just plain exhausted. But feeling like you’re too tired to go to work or do your normal daily activities for days at time? This is not normal and it’s a classic sign of overtraining. Your fitness plan should make you feel energized and uplifted not tired to the bone.

Prevention of Overtraining – It’s Simpler Than You Think!

When it comes to prevention, knowledge is power. If you start to notice decreased performance, exhaustion and injury, listen to your body and slow down. 

→ When designing your training program, take the slow and steady approach.

→ Ramp up your training gradually so you don’t get hurt.

→ Master the 5km race before you sign up for that marathon. This will give your body time to adapt to the new challenges it’s facing. 

→ Don’t forget to REST too!

Justin Robinson, a Strength & Conditioning coach and Registered Sports Dietitian says, “Recovery today not only allows for greater production tomorrow, but likely fewer missed training days over the next few months.” [6]

It may feel challenging to pull back on your training when you’ve been working so hard. But if your ultimate goal is to improve your performance, you need to respect your body and treat it with care. 

→ NUTRITION also plays a huge role in our bodies ability to recover post workout. Protein in particular is essential for helping your hard working muscles to recover and repair themselves.

These Chocolatey Banana Protein Muffins are a decadent tasting way to refuel your body with the protein it needs so you can keep yourself in the game!

RECIPE 

Chocolatey Banana Protein Muffins

Makes 10-12 muffins

Ingredients: 

1 ½ cups rolled oats  (set aside ½ cup to make oat flour; food processor required)

1 cup mashed banana

1 cup non-dairy milk

½ cup chocolate protein powder (any plant-based variety)

1/3 cup cacao powder, unprocessed

2 tbsp maple syrup or honey

½ tsp baking powder

2 eggs 

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

Line or grease your muffin tin.

Place ½ cup of oats in a food processor to create oat flour (about 1 minute).

Mix all ingredients well (including oat flour) to form batter.

Divide the batter into 10-12 muffins.

Bake for 18-20 minutes and enjoy! 

REFERENCES 

[1] Sports Health (March 2012): Overtraining Syndrome – A Practical Guide 

[2] The Washington Post: Overtraining is a real danger, even if you’re not an elite athlete. Know the signs. 

[3] WebMD: Overtraining and Osteoporosis 

[4] First Endurance (Jeff Rocco, MD): How to Stop Cortisol and Overtraining Syndrome From Wrecking Your Season  

[5] Tampa Bay Times: Are You Overtraining? Learn The Warning Signs.

[6] American Council on Exercise (ACE): 9 Signs of Overtraining