Many of us who engage in weight training and have put on a considerable amount of muscle over the years have stuck with it in an almost machine-like fashion.
We might even consider ourselves to be machines in the sense that we give ourselves fuel, we work hard at the task at hand, day in and day out we hit the gym, fire up the intensity and expect to see the results of our labors.
Unfortunately, this process cannot continue forever and just like the 20-year-old lawn mower that finally petered out, so will you!
What I’m talking about here is overtraining.
Your body can only handle so much for so long before it stops responding to the stimulus you provide it for growth. There are steps you can take to help avoid overtraining but the key is to listen to your body.
What is Overtraining?
Overtraining is defined as an increase in training volume and/or intensity of exercise resulting in performance decrements. Recovery from this condition often requires many days or even weeks. A shorter or less severe variation of overtraining is referred to as overreaching, which is easily recovered from in just a few days. Overtraining is usually the result of being overzealous in your attempts to improve and feeling the need to continue without taking a break.
This feeling can stem from the idea of thinking that your on-stage competition is training hard and you’re not; therefore, they will win. It can come from the belief that if you stop training, you’ll lose everything you’ve worked for. It could also possibly come from becoming addicted to exercise. Regardless of how you come to the point of being overtrained, you have to learn how to recognize the symptoms that lead up to it.
Signs and Symptoms of Overtraining
- You can’t remember the last time you took a day off from the gym.
- You notice that you get sick often, and it takes longer than normal to recover.
- Your joints are killing you, non-stop throbbing or just a dull annoying pain that never ceases.
- You are having difficulties sleeping at night.
- You can’t relax during your down time.
- Your motivation to hit the gym isn’t there.
- You barely make it through your workout and would call your attempt to complete it sluggish at best.
- Your body is taking on a depleted look and your strength is way down.
- You get lax with your diet and cheat more often.
- Overall fatigue, headaches and being a little testy towards others.
I’m Experiencing Symptoms, What Do I Do Now?
The answer is simple, take time off. That’s it.
The truth is, and this comes from a conversation I had with a multi Mr Olympia winner, is that you don’t lose muscle overnight. It takes quite some time for the actual muscle cells to break down, so let that be the last thing you worry about when you take time off. If anything, not taking time off will cause you the greatest damage to your physique.
Supplements to Help with Recovery
With so many excellent products, ALLMAX Nutrition is obviously the first place to look. Try using R-ALA, which is a fantastic antioxidant. GLUTAMINE is a must to combat overtraining and help you get back in the game, as are whey protein powders like ALLWHEY or ISOFLEX. Something else you may want to consider is ZMA, as it promotes the relaxation of muscles. Finally, if you’re not already using it, give VITASTACK a try – it will be worth it.
I know there are people out there who disagree with the whole overtraining theory. Those people say that if you’re eating enough and resting enough, then overtraining should not exist. Science says otherwise and maybe for those who disagree, it comes down to a mindset they have that has convinced them otherwise. I know there are times when I need time off, especially if you’re a normal guy like me who has other things to do during the run of the day other than eating, training and sleeping. So if you feel like you need a day or two off, do it. You’ll be happy that you did and it’s a great way to keep you in the game longer.
- Fry AC, Kraemer WJ,” Resistance exercise overtraining and overreaching. Neuroendocrine responses”, Sports Med. 1997 Feb;23(2):106-29.
- Foster, Carl Section Editor(s): Foster, Carl; Lehmann, Manfred Chairs, “Monitoring training in athletes with reference to overtraining syndrome.” Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol. 30, No. 7, pp. 1164-1168, 1998.