Sunday, October 21, 2012

Signs That You're Overtraining: With Exercise, With Life

I thought about linking to an article on overtraining but figured that it would be just as easy for anyone who reads this to Google "signs of overtraining" or some such thing. You'll find articles on the phenomenon of overtraining around a variety of activities and sports. If you take the time to read more than one article you'll notice some similarities.

I'll highlight the top few signs and share how I experience them. My point is not to make this all about me but rather to highlight that overtraining is very individual and you're better served to identify and respect your own individual signals than to simply believe that the symptoms will show up in a classic textbook way.

1. Increased fatigue: In the beginning this is usually slight, you may even think you're simply having an "off day." Later it can become bone deep fatigue what never seems to clear even after a 12 hour sleeping marathon. Identifiable fatique is a midpoint sign for me. When it shows up I am already significantly overtrained. Bone deep fatigue is a true late and danger sign for me. When it rears its ugly head I know I need to act NOW if I want to regain my physical equilibrium.

2. Increased energy: Sounds odd, doesn't it? One of my early signs is a flighty kind of excess energy despite poor sleep. When I find myself thinking that I should be tired but I'm not it's a sign a need to step back and re-evaluate my life balance.

3. Sleep Changes: Needing more or sleeping poorly despite being tired - especially if you normally do not have sleep issues. This one is a biggie for me. I normally fall asleep quickly and sleep deeply and without waking so when I start experiencing broken sleep, where I struggle to fall back to sleep after waking I know I need to look at what's going on in my life and shift my balance.

4. Sore Muscles: We all experience sore muscles when we intensify our exercise or simply partake in a new form of physical activity. Muscle soreness (not joint soreness) that lasts 24-48 hours post exercise or activity isn't necessarily a bad thing. Exaggerated soreness that doesn't want to go away however can signal overtraining. This is one of my signs but not one I can depend upon - in other words sometimes I experience it and sometimes I don't. For me it manifests as sudden onset and intense beyond what I normally experience muscle soreness soon after a workout. It doesn't have to be a tough workout either. That's where the exaggeration comes in.

5. Hunger that isn't relieved after eating: This is a middle to late symptom for me. I don't feel hungry. I just feel like I want to eat but what I want to eat is ellusive. This sign signals me that I'm low on energy.

6. Irritability or other emotional changes: This can also show up as unusually strong emotions. This is a sign for me but it doesn't necessarily mean that I'm physically overtrained. It can also signal a need for more sleep, or emotional overload and a need to give myself some "space."

7. Getting sick often: If you look back over your training log and notice that you've had to interrupt your plans to recover from a string of colds or several big infections it's a reason to stop and re-evaluate your plan. I don't get sick often so for me this will normally be more the feeling that I might be coming down with something that keeps coming and going. If I actually get sick it's a clear and late sign I've been overextending.

8. Weight gain when eating and exercising for maintenance or weight loss: I've experienced this first hand in the past. One time it was more due to the activities and stressors of my life than it was my exercise schedule. Another time it was most definitely related to my training program. In both cases the weight gain wasn't huge but it was unexpected given my prudent eating plan.

So there are a few signs. You can find additional signs listed online by doing a google search.

My challenge to you is to think back and make an effort to identify your personal signs of overtraining. They can be signs you've experienced when exercising regularly or when overbooked with life. Can you figure out which signs are early signs and which are late signs?

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