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Overtraining vs Under-recovering

Have you ever heard someone say “no pain, no gain?” Those who believe this may be training extra hard, spending long hours in the gym, and taking no rest days. These individuals often believe that weakness is a sign to train even harder. Their bodies are fatigued but they continue to train and not give themselves or their bodies proper recovery time.  It’s best not to listen to that person as they may be overtraining themselves. Training too much and too hard can lead to a decrease in performance. This is due to the concept known as overtraining. Overtraining simply means the individual’s overall volume of training exceeds their ability to recover. For example, when someone is training too many sessions too close together without letting their body recover in between, they are overtraining. When an individual overtrains they ignore their body’s need to recover and continue to push themselves. Doing so will only break down the body further. Without proper rest to the body, it may even become more difficult to recover from overtraining, sometimes weeks or even months. Athletes are more prone to overtraining due to common stress on their bodies. Stressors may include; the sport itself, school, work, or relationships. Anyone can fall into overtraining if they are working their bodies too hard and too often with little recovery.

Under-recovery is the failure to fulfill recovery demands on the body. It is the time in between sessions and what you are doing to allow your body to recover. The recovery demands that our body needs include proper nutrition, sleep, and hydration. Giving your body the time it needs to recover in between training sessions is essential. Overtraining inside the gym and under-recovery outside of the gym should both be avoided. Make sure you are not training too much too closely, and be sure you are responding to your body’s need for recovery. This will ensure your body is maintaining a steady growth for your overall health. It is important to differentiate the two allowing for optimal growth.

Example

Overtraining and Under-recovering may sound confusing and similar to each other.

Let’s take a closer look at an example to differentiate the two.

Ryan is a 23 year old male who is obsessed with training his body. He lives by the saying “more is better” and “no pain, no gain.” He is a teacher, so he has his summers free. During this time, he decides to train and train only. He believes that since he can’t get to the gym as much during the school year he needs to work extra hard during the summer to get his gains. Ryan goes to the gym everyday 7 days a week. He starts training in the morning around 5am for strength training, returns to the gym after lunch around 1 PM for high intensity interval training, and in the evening he runs at least 5 miles. Ryan does this everyday with no rest day in between. Ryan is overtraining his body because he is training too much and too close together. His whole week revolves around his training. He is not getting adequate amounts of rest, nutrition, or hydration. Here is where the under-recovery occurs: outside of the gym, Ryan is not allowing his body to recover. Ryan does not get the recommended 7 hours of sleep because he is stressed and cannot relax.  His nutrition is lacking, and he eats food convenient to him like fast food.  In addition, he isn’t getting enough fluids. Ryan feels fatigued, is easily angered, cannot relax, and doesn’t see his friends. His main focus is training, but no pain, no gain right?

In this example you can see how overtrained and under-recovered Ryan is. Ryan is training too hard and too intensely too close together. He needs to recognize the signs and symptoms and follow recovery guidelines to ensure his body is getting what it needs. Ryan should talk to a personal trainer and a dietician to guide him away from overtraining and under-recovery.

Common Signs of Overtraining and Under-recovering

There are numerous signs that your body may be telling you that you are overtraining or under-recovering. Overtraining and under-recovering have the same side effects.

Overtraining and Under-recovering SIgns and Symptoms 

  • Unusual muscle soreness after a workout with continued training
  • Prolonged general fatigue
  • Unable to train at your manageable level
  • A delay in recovery following training
  • Your performance plateaus or declines
  • Thinking of skipping or quitting your training sessions
  • Increased tension, anger, depression, or even confusion
  • If your body cannot relax
  • Getting a poor night’s sleep
  • Lack of energy or motivation
  • Increased sickness
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Loss of appetite
  • You find things once enjoyable not anymore
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Irregular menstrual cycle or loss of menstrual periods

Recovery: Sleep, Nutrition, Hydration, and Proper Exercise

Once you have recognized the signs and symptoms of overtraining and under-recovery, listen to your body!. You can talk to your personal trainer or nutritionist to guide you into recovery. Most importantly, with proper sleep, nutrition, hydration, and the right amount of exercise you can overcome and prevent overtraining and under-recovery.

Let’s start with sleep; reduce your training or even stop to ensure your body is getting the rest it needs. Adequate rest is not a sign of weakness! Give yourself rest days each week for optimal performance. The RDA recommends obtaining 7 or more hours of sleep each night. Make sure you are giving your body the right amount of sleep before going into your next training session. To ensure you are getting enough sleep, try reducing your stress level so your body can relax. We all cope with stress differently which may make it harder for some to sleep at night. If you need help to reduce your stress seek help from a health professional to work with you through the stressors on your body. Stressors may include; your training,  job, family, social life, finances, and time. Make sure you are taking time for yourself to reduce stress and relax the body.

Next, nutrition. Examine your eating habits; are you being deprived of necessary nutrients your body needs? Are you just eating foods that are convenient to you so you can get back to your training faster? The body needs appropriate amounts of calories, protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals to provide energy for your training.  Inadequate amounts of carbohydrates and protein intake could be the cause of muscle fatigue. Low amounts of these macronutrients decreases your muscle glycogen stores leading to fatigue and poor muscle repair. Dehydration also contributes to muscle fatigue. Drink at least 8 glasses of water a day to ensure muscle repair. If getting in your water seems like a chore to you, try using a big water bottle or cup to get in your fluids. Sometimes adding a lemon makes the water taste better!!  Make sure your calorie intake matches up with the amount of energy your body needs, this could be for both training and muscle repair. Talk to a registered dietician or nutrition counselor to guide you through the necessary nutrients you need to provide your body with energy and healing.

Finally, let’s discuss exercise. If you are training back to back numerous days in a row with minimal rest you are overtraining your body. Listen to your body, and work with your personal trainer to guide you away from overtraining. It may help to keep a training log to record your sessions, how long you trained, and how it made you feel. All this may seem difficult but necessary to yourself. You must discipline yourself to ensure that you do not fall under overtraining and under-recovery. The sooner you start following these recovery guidelines the sooner you’ll be back to training and feeling like yourself again.