Over-Training – The Causes, Symptoms, And How To Prevent It

Over-Training ManAlthough over-training sounds like something only body builders and professional athletes experience, it can effect anyone who exercises and depends just as much as what you do outside of the gym as inside it. The effects of over-training are numerous and can result in mental as well physical symptoms, which can in some cases cause serious problems including injury, chronic fatigue, muscle loss and insomnia.

The cause of over-training is basically training too intensely, too repetitively, and by working some muscles more than others. Even more importantly, not getting enough rest has a considerable effect, which includes not just sleep but what other activity you do outside the gym. In other words, you are more likely to suffer from over-training if you have a stressful, physical job compared to a not very stressful desk job.

This is because over-training isn’t caused just by physical work which leaves us feeling tired, it also effects the nervous system, immune system and hormone levels, just like hard mental work and stress.

The effects of over-training are numerous, and just because you have one or two doesn’t mean this is the cause. But if you know that something just doesn’t feel right with your body, or your mind, it’s a good idea to make sure your work, rest, nutrition balance is right if only so you can rule it out.

Over-Training And The Metabolic System

Excessive Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)
Excessive Build Up Of Lactic Acid
Tendon And Tissue Damage
Slow And Weak Muscle Contractions
Depleted Levels Of Glycogen – lack of stored energy
Depleted Levels Of Creatine

Over-Training And The Nervous System

Sleeping Problems – requiring a lot of sleep or not being able to sleep
Irritable
Increased Metabolic Rate
Easily Fatigued
Weight Loss – unwanted or excessive
Increased Blood Pressure
Increased Resting Heart Rate
Lack Of Appetite

Over-Training And The Immune System
Regular exercise can and usually does result in a healthier, stronger immune system. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll never get a cold, but if you do it will be a lot milder and a lot shorter in duration than in an unfit person. If you’re over-training however, you could begin to find yourself getting one cold or other illness after another, which will only add to your problems if you continue to train. Rest, relaxation, and good nutrition is good for your immune system as well as your muscles.

Over-Training And Hormone Levels
Hormones play a very important role in a healthy body, but in terms of how over-training effects them for muscle building and getting a six pack, increased cortisol and decreased testosterone causes muscle breakdown. This means muscle loss. There is also a decrease in thyroxine, which affects the metabolism.

If you are experiencing one or two of any of the above symptoms, be aware that you might be over-training. If you are experiencing several of the symptoms then you probably are over-training and should take a week or more off from any kind of exercise, and take a look at your workout regime and get more rest.

A correct workout regime is not one where the same muscles are trained for hours on end until you can’t even pick up a weight, day after day, in the same order, with a poor diet and only a few hours sleep.

This is the short road to over-training and very poor results.

Instead, each muscle should be trained once, or in some circumstances twice, a week. No more. And each muscle should be worked for an absolute maximum of 12 sets each workout, which for strength training should be reduced to as little as just 2 or 3 sets per workout. Also, a workout should be around 60 minutes. That’s 1 hour. Not 2 or 3 as is often the case. Finally, your workout should last about 6 weeks before it is changed, even if this just means doing the exercises in a different order, but ideally change the exercises you do completely.

Don’t be the guy who’s been doing the same 3-hour workout for 20 years, who’s results plateaued about 18 years ago, and whose list of injuries and chronic pains sounds more like that of a professional stuntman.

Resting is just as important as training. Your muscles grow and your fitness improves outside of the gym and mostly while you sleep. Be sure you’re getting enough for you, whether this is 7 hours or 9 hours, and one day a week turn your alarm clock off and let your body wake up when it’s rested. Also, even if you’re weight training 4 days and then have cardio days in between, make sure you get 1 full day a week where you do no exercise at all. In the longer term, take 1 full week off from exercise about every 12 weeks. If you change your workouts at least every 6 weeks as I advise, this would fit nicely with your week off.

Finally, correct nutrition is far too big a subject to cover in this article, but to help prevent over-training the basics are: eat breakfast, eat several small meals a day, get enough protein and remember that carbohydrates are just as important.

While it’s admirable to want to spend hours in the gym and exercise as much as possible, your body isn’t designed to do this and it doesn’t like it. The only way this is possible without suffering from over-training is to pump your body full of steroids. This might look good in the short term, but in the long term you’re what’s being done to your body on the inside will decrease your lifespan considerably.

Instead, avoid over-training by working hard and resting harder.

As usual, any questions or feedback leave a comment below.

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