You workout every day. Sometimes twice a day. Sometimes for two hours at a time. You exercise at every opportunity you can get and still your body isn’t changing. Your muscles aren’t growing. You’re not getting any stronger. You aren’t loosing weight. You don’t feel any fitter and you don’t understand why!
You are getting frustrated. Thinking, ‘why hasn’t my body changed if I’m exercising this much?’
Well… you are probably overdoing it.
It may seem like you are going about it the right way. I mean, surely the more you train the better, right? Wrong.
Hard to believe, but there is such a thing as too much exercise. It’s called overtraining and it can lead to reaching a plateau in your fitness goals or even worse, going backwards!
I know it doesn’t really seem to make sense. You would think the more exercise you do the more benefits you would reap, but here’s the thing, if you don’t let your body rest every now and then, the benefits may never develop.
It’s all about recovery. Our muscles need a chance to repair themselves in order for them to grow. If you are smashing them day in day out, they never get this opportunity and the result is, well, not getting any results.
Let me explain.
When we workout we are basically tearing our muscles (ouch). With rest and also proper nutrition, our torn muscle fibres repair themselves, which then leads to muscle growth. If we put our muscles under too much stress and don’t allow time for recovery, the muscles begin to breakdown faster than they can repair themselves. Overtraining. This can lead to excessive soreness, net loss of muscle mass and increase risk of injury. Not ideal.
This is exactly why we are encouraged to and so many people have split exercise routines. Work one muscle group one day, then an opposing one the next. They have ‘days’. You know, ‘back and bis’, ‘chest and tris’ and ‘leg day’. Then throw some cardio in there too and of course ‘rest days’. By focusing on certain muscle groups one day and different ones the next, it gives the muscles a change to repair themselves and ultimately grow.
If I am to be completely honest with you, I never really understood the ‘overtraining’ thing. I never believed in ‘rest days’. Why rest when you can workout? Every time someone would say to me ‘maybe you are overtraining?’ in regards to injuries I accumulated or complaining of seeing no changes to my body, I would snub it off with a ‘Pfft, never!’ But suddenly I understand. Now I get it. Now I see the benefits of allowing my muscles to recover.
While up until recently the concept of overtraining was never fully explained to me, even when it was later down the track, I still didn’t believe it. However this week, I really learnt the benefits of recovery days.
I’m the queen of excessive training. Pretty much everything I said in the opening paragraph is me speaking from personal experience. Exercising twice a day, doing two, sometimes three classes back to back and working out at every possible opportunity. I never regarded it as ‘overtraining’ though. Yes I have injuries and yes I have been complaining of not seeing any difference to my body recently. So yes now I am wiser.
Last week I had been pretty unwell with a wisdom tooth infection which had me dosed up on some hardcore painkillers. The painkillers made me drowsy and very dizzy so I spent a lot of time in bed sleeping. One afternoon when I went to lay down for what I thought would be a nap before the gym, I actually conked out for a whole 12 hours and I missed my two gym classes I was planning to go to.
What a blessing in disguise that ended up being. The next day when I went to the gym I lifter heavier, I felt stronger, I didn’t fatigue like usual and smashed out an awesome workout! I knew instantly it was because I had an (unintentional) ‘rest day’. My muscles had a chance to repair with that one day off and because they weren’t fatigued from my usual back to back days of training I was able to push myself further.
Safe to say I am no longer a skeptic of ‘rest days’. I can now definitely see the benefit of having days off from exercising and splitting up my workouts.
What are some of the signs you are overtraining to look out for:
- Reduced enthusiasm and motivation for training and work
- Chronic muscle or joint soreness
- Impaired recovery from exercise
- Increased occurrence of injuries
- Disturbed sleep patterns and increased feelings of tiredness
- Mood changes; depression, irritability, anxiety
- Reduced appetite and dramatic weight loss
- Stop seeing results
- Increased incidence of colds and infections
- Restlessness and lack of focus
That’s just a few…
Last weeks’ experience has made me take a new approach to my training and probably a much healthier one at that. I’m going to reduce my time in the gym (limit my workouts to 60minutes) and write myself a new program. I am going to focus on training smarter not longer.
P.S. I can feel a lot of ‘I told you so’s’ coming now…
Love Elo xx