One of the most important aspects of weight training and building muscle is giving your muscles enough time to recuperate. However sometimes, people get so encouraged by their gains that they think if some is good, than more must be better. This is a mistake.
In some cases, training actually becomes an addiction. Unfortunately, when this happens, muscle growth can come to a screeching halt. In fact, your body may start to decrease muscle and move into a fat storing mode instead. Eek.
This is of course the last thing you want and it’s for these reasons that it is very important to recognize the signs of overtraining as early as possible, so you can take the necessary steps to get back on track.
6 Signs of Overtraining:
1. You stop gaining and may even notice you lose some of your original gains.
While this may seem like an obvious sign, if you are not actually keeping track of your lean body mass, it is an easy one to miss in the early stages of this catabolic state. If you are not doing so already, you should be using some method to measure body fat and body weight so you can calculate and track your lean body mass.
The easiest way of doing this is using a digital BIA body fat scale; most gyms seem to have these nowadays. Measuring skin folds using a calliper is a bit more accurate, but this is a skill that is hard to master. If you don’t know what you are doing and don’t know anyone who knows what they are doing, just stick to the wiz bang body fat scale.
2. Your sleep pattern becomes abnormal.
If your sympathetic nervous system remains overly excited all the time and your cortisol levels never drop to normal, this will impact your sleep. You may find it hard to fall asleep. You may wake up in the middle of the night and not be able to go back to sleep. You may not be able to sleep as deeply as normal.
Any changes in your sleep pattern while you are training should be interpreted as a sign to take a rest period. When you start again, you may want to adjust your workouts so you take a bit more time between workouts or simply don’t work out as long.
3. You become inexplicably depressed.
It’s normal to get depressed when something bad happens. If your team just lost the Super bowl for example, you are expected to be on a bit of a downer for a few days. However, if you are getting depressed for no particular reason and are finding it hard to even get the motivation to just get out of bed in the morning, this could be a sign of overtraining.
An abnormally elevated cortisol level in the body is a well-known cause of depression. It is important to pay close attention to your mental state when you are training. If you stay in the anabolic state, you should feel generally happy.
4. You become irritated or anxious.
We all get agitated and annoyed from time to time but if you find yourself all of a sudden being irritated by they way people breathe or chew, something could be up.
If your co-workers, family, or friends start asking you, “What the heck is your problem?” this is potentially a sign of overtraining. Irritability can sneak up on the person who is irritable. They may not even realize they’re more irritable than normal. However, those around you will probably notice it first. Let them be your barometer of your mood.
Likewise, if you find you are more anxious or quick tempered with other people than you normally are, this too may be a sign of overtraining.
5. You are agitating old injuries or getting new ones.
Always remember there is “good” pain and “bad” pain and you need to know the difference. It is normal to have a little soreness in your muscles when you train. After all, you are breaking down your muscle fibers – it’s going to hurt a little.
However, if you start to get joint pain or start to re-aggravate old injuries, you are probably overtraining. Likewise, if your muscles stay sore for more than 72 hours or they are still sore when you start your next session, you are most likely pushing yourself too hard. Remember, you need to give your muscles and body adequate recovery time to build muscle and do so safely.
6. You stay chronically ill.
If you come down with a flu or cold that doesn’t seem to go away no matter how many pills you pop or how much you nurse yourself, this is one of the classic signs of overtraining.
It means you have worn down your immune system to the point it can’t heal your body. If you experience this, the best thing you can do is take a complete break from your training and allow your body to restore itself. This doesn’t mean fewer sets or less weight, it means completely stopping until you are better.
Eat healthy, drink lots of fluids, and get extra rest. Once you’ve fully recuperated, start your training again but cut back a little.
Listen to Your Body – It Knows What it’s Talking about.
The human body is an amazing thing. It rarely does things just for the fun of it, so if it’s ‘talking’ you really need to be listening.
More is not always better when it comes to training and building muscle and so if any of these signs of overtraining seem familiar, you need to take note and the appropriate action. This action is pretty much always to ease up or stop altogether. Stay within your limits and you’ll grow more muscle than ever and feel great doing so.