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Hey Gym Rats! Spending long hours at the gym to achieve that weight loss goal or that fit, toned ‘celebrity’ body? Have you always believed more is better when it comes to exercise? Do you regularly do back to back cardio classes? Or do you do heavy strength training AND high impact cardio every single day? If any of these sound like you, you might be overtraining. Overtraining can have counterproductive and dangerous consequences for our fitness goals and health.
While we all hear the advice that we need to take enough rest days, get enough sleep and get adequate nutrition for our energy expenditure, for many of us women, it may go in one ear and out the other. I believe that many women subconsciously abuse their bodies in their quest to achieve their own physical ideals. It’s important to remind ourselves from time to time that feeling and being healthy are really the goal and that taking good care of ourselves is the way to get there.
The following are some signs to look for that might indicate you’re overtraining. If any of these sound familiar, take time reassess your fitness goals BEFORE you end up injured or ill.
1) Tired all the time?
This very common symptom of overtraining manifests itself both in fatigue during the day as well as weakness during training sessions. If you’re training your muscles very hard day after day (and this includes cardio, too much of which creates additional stress on leg muscles in particular), it’s probable that you’re not getting enough rest to allow for adequate muscle recovery.
Many women who overtrain – regardless of whether their goal is weight loss or muscle gain – often do not take in enough calories during the day, which can also cause exhaustion. Those who are trying to lose weight often eat to little in an attempt to boost their weight loss. Those women trying to increase lean muscle need to take good care of their nutrition to ensure they’re getting adequate calories, and in particular protein to support their goals. Lack of adequate nutrition will contribute to your feeling of malaise if you’re overtraining.
Overtraining can be a cause of frequent illness, and there are a few factors that play into this. First, if your body isn’t given the time it needs to recover, or is lacking adequate nutrients and calories for its needs, your immune system is bound to take a hit. Second, your body requires a large amount of protein to keep up with heavy workouts and to build muscle. However, the amino acids in these proteins are also responsible for creating antibodies which fight off illness. If your protein intake isn’t enough to meet the needs of both, your immune system may be compromised.
3) Can’t Sleep?
Despite being tired, overtraining can cause irregular sleep patterns, exacerbating your feeling of malaise. These sleep disturbances are likely caused by hormonal changes. High intensity workouts place stress on your system, increasing levels of epinephrine, norephinephrine and cortisol. These can increase resting heart rate and blood pressure and can interfere with the production of hormones and neurotransmitters in the brain that are involved in achieving quality sleep.
Overtraining greatly increases the likelihood of injury. If muscles don’t get enough recovery time in between exercise sessions, it is more likely that the exhausted muscle will become injured, or the weak muscle won’t support your movement causing you to fracture a bone. Overtraining lowers estrogen levels in women and can cause a decrease in bone density, causing bone breaks and fractures. Decreased estrogen can also result in a loss of menstrual periods in women.
5) Not Losing Weight or Unwanted Weight Loss?
Overtraining can lead to elevated cortisol levels which in turn can cause the body to use muscle for energy. This can cause you to lose weight rapidly and leave you feeling weak. On the flip side, excess cortisol can also cause the body to slow its metabolism and ramp up fat storage. This can result in rapid weight gain and lethargy. Rapid shifts in weight either up or down are a strong indicator of overtraining.
6) Feel Weak During Workouts?
If you find yourself feeling weak during your workouts, it’s a clear sign that you’re overtraining. If your muscles aren’t given adequate recovery time between sessions, it’s a given that they’ll have a difficult time performing their best. Also, the increase in cortisol caused by overtraining contributes to muscle loss. If you find that you can’t lift as heavy of weights, can’t complete as many repetitions, or if your muscles are more painful than usual after training, it may be a sign that you’re overdoing it.
7) Not as Excited to Exercise?
If exercise starts to feel like a chore and you don’t find yourself looking forward to it as you once did, it may be another sign that you’re beating your body down. If your body is constantly exhausted going into exercise sessions, you’ll finish feeling miserable rather than rejuvenated. It’s not hard to understand why you’d be less motivated!
So how much exercise is too much? Each person’s body is very different and can withstand different amounts of activity and will recover at a different rate. To determine if you’re overtraining, you’ll need to have an honest look at your exercise routine and the symptoms you’re experiencing. If you think you may be overtraining, take action before it’s too late. Take a week off and then reassess your workout schedule and fitness goals.
Looking for a plan that you can trust will give you the results you want to see without overtraining? Athlean-XX for Women was created by Jeff Cavaliere, a physical therapist and previous personal trainer for the New York Mets. In Jeff’s experience working with athletes, he had to help them find the right balance of training and nutrition without risking overtraining. After all, when you’re a professional athlete, you can’t risk losing muscle mass, getting ill or getting injured. Based on his experience, Jeff created a women’s program involving just 30 minutes of intense circuit strength training per day. Not only is a 30 minute workout more convenient for our busy schedules, it’s also more conducive to building lean, toned muscle and burning fat. If you’re ready to ditch the 2 hour gym sessions and commit to a fitness and nutrition program with proven results, we’d love for you to join us on Team Athlean!
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