Overtraining is a common issue among elite athletes and overreaching fitness enthusiasts who believe a day without training is wasted. If you don’t leave enough time to recover, you’ll slowly realize your body is overworked and not progressing.
Like everything in life, successful training requires balance. Here’s a guide explaining the signs and effects of overtraining, how to recover from them, and how to prevent them, so take a break and read away!
Things to Know Before Learning How to Recover from Overtraining
Training long and hard in the gym may seem the logical path to achieving our fitness goals, but have you ever stopped to ask yourself if you’re overdoing it? Unfortunately, overtraining can cause a reverse effect and stop you from making positive progress.
Depending on your objectives, there are recommendations about how many times a week you should exercise for maximum results. If training is a part of your everyday routine, you should be able to recognize if you’ve crossed a line and if it’s time to cut down on gym time.
What is overtraining syndrome (OTS)?
Overtraining means enduring extensive and hard training sessions without letting your body rest in between them. Professional athletes frequently experience this syndrome because they push their limits each training to achieve peak performance.
While regular training is crucial for success, having enough recovery time dictates the effectiveness of your training. If you don’t maintain this balance, skip meals, and don’t drink enough water, you’ll soon start feeling the physical and psychological effects of overtraining.
OTS can be very dangerous, no matter what kind of workouts you’re into. Running and other types of cardio, weightlifting, and HIIT training can cause overexertion, and you might get injured too. Single-sport athletes frequently experience this kind of burnout.
General signs of overtraining
While the right amount of exercise has many health benefits, overtraining can affect your overall well-being. Overloading your muscles, developing eating and sleeping disorders, and generally growing dissatisfied are just some symptoms you may experience.
There are many signs you might be overtraining, and it’s important to recognize them on time. It’s normal to feel exhausted after a good session, but if this fatigue and difficulty persist, that’s your body telling you it needs a break.
We divided the common symptoms of overtraining into three main groups, so let’s see what they are!
Effects on your training
- Constant muscle soreness that progressively intensifies after each workout
- Decline in performance during training
- Constant sweating and overheating
- Repeating injuries, like sprains and fractures
- Lack of enthusiasm about training, wanting to skip or shorten the workouts
- Longer recovery after each session
- Feeling of muscle heaviness or stiffness, mainly in the legs
Effects on your health
- Weaker immunity
- Elevated blood pressure and at-rest heart rate
- Digestive issues like constipation or diarrhea
- Loss of appetite, eating disorders, and excessive weight loss
- One of the typical female overtraining symptoms — loss of menstruation or irregular cycles
Effects on your life quality
- Constant fatigue and lack of energy
- Various sleeping disorders
- Irritability, anger, or even depression
- Lack of concentration and confusion, poor memory
- Constant anxiety and inability to relax
- Lack of motivation, low self-esteem
All of these symptoms can make your life difficult, especially if you used to be enthusiastic about working out. Most people experiencing them believe they’re a sign of progress, and they couldn’t be more wrong. If you recognize any OTS signs, take them seriously and hit the brakes.
Recovering from Overtraining
Overexercising has severe side effects, but there are steps to take for a sure recovery. Let’s talk about them.
Put working out on standby.
The first thing your body needs is a total break from overexertion. Don’t despair — it won’t take up more than a few days, and the results of your hard training will still be visible. You can consult a physiotherapist to determine the best recovery schedule for a gradual return.
Revisit your eating habits.
Nutrition and fitness go hand in hand, so you should analyze your eating habits. Our body needs the right amount of nutrients to endure strenuous exercise, so if you’ve been depriving it of the material it needs to recharge, you might have caused some overtraining symptoms.
Research debunked the myth that exercise is more important than diet. If you can’t figure it out alone, consult a nutritionist to help you make a diet plan to get you through your recovery.
Excessive sweating from overtraining leaves you dehydrated. Remember to drink enough water during the day and keep up the habit during your workouts to prevent overtraining in the future.
Practice relaxation techniques.
Since your body and mind are constantly under stress, do everything you can to relax them. Massage, hot baths, yoga, and other soothing physical therapy should be critical elements of your overtraining recovery.
In addition, you might have difficulty giving up training and adjusting to the recovery period, so be sure to take care of your mental health. Don’t be ashamed to seek support from a therapist and take up mental skills training to help you prepare for your return.
Go easy on yourself.
Don’t expect recovery to come overnight — you spent a long time overexerting your body, so you need to listen to it and return at a healthy pace. Let your muscles rest if they’re sore, and adjust your workout routine to have more rest days and fewer reps.
You can gradually increase the intensity as you regain strength, but don’t rush the process.
One of the best overtraining recovery tips you can get is to take up cross-training. When you start working out again, activate different muscle groups each session and mix your regular workouts with yoga, pilates, or stationary bicycle riding to stay fit and release tension.
Get some sleep.
Overtraining will mess with your sleeping pattern, and working out won’t be effective without enough sleep. Try to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night and keep your phone and other devices out of the bedroom to avoid distractions.
Try overtraining recovery supplements.
A way to speed up your recovery is to try supplements. They can accelerate tissue healing and reduce inflammation, making them a great addition to your recovery plan. You can also take them as a preventive measure.
Be careful, though, because some supplements contain caffeine — an unwanted stimulant that can worsen your condition. Limit your caffeine intake during recovery, and stay cautious even after you’ve returned to your workout routine.
How to Prevent Overtraining
If you’ve begun settling into your workout routine after OTS recovery, you should make some changes in your daily routine to prevent yourself from experiencing overexertion symptoms again. Here are some measures you can undertake to maintain positive progress.
Keep a journal.
Keeping a record of your workouts with notes about your mental and emotional state can help prevent overtraining. Describe your workout, indicating if you made any changes in intensity and volume, and then note how you felt afterward.
Don’t forget carbs.
While dieticians and fitness gurus often emphasize we should avoid unhealthy carbohydrates, make sure you maintain a sufficient healthy carbohydrate intake because they aid muscle recovery and are an important source of energy.
Low carb intake can cause muscle catabolism, meaning your body will start using muscle mass to energize because it’s not getting enough energy from nutrients.
Take a break from training.
Being relentless and not listening to your body is a one-way ticket to overtraining syndrome. We cannot stress this enough — rest is your greatest ally in achieving your fitness goals, and your body needs time to reset.
If you feel you’re hitting a glass ceiling, press pause and revisit your workout plans. This break doesn’t have to last more than a few days, and you’ll be back at the gym with a fresh strategy that will give you better results.
Diversify your workout plan.
When it comes to effective training, less is more, meaning that you don’t need to spend countless hours at the gym every day to have a successful workout. Most workouts don’t last for more than an hour and still have enough intensity to help you get the desired results.
A balanced workout plan will help you prevent overexertion. Shift between short, moderate, and long workouts. Don’t put more than two intense workout days in your weekly plan, and ensure they’re followed by easy days and rest days.
Learning how to recover from overtraining is challenging but necessary if working out is a big part of your life. You don’t need to quit for good — simply adjust your routine to allow your body to benefit from a good workout and have plenty of time to rest before the next session.
We hope this small guide answers all of your most important questions, but be sure to seek professional help if you need it. Take care of your mental health in the process, and take all the time you need to regain strength — and you’ll be back at the gym in no time!
How do I know if I’m overtraining?
Your body will tell you you’re overtraining — the key is to recognize the symptoms. If you feel tired, sore, and can’t make any progress but pressurize yourself to keep training, you’re probably experiencing burnout, and it’s time to stop.
How can I speed up overtraining recovery?
Your recovery will happen at its own pace, depending on the intensity of your workouts and how long you’ve been overexercising. Some steps you can take to speed it up are using a foam roller to handle muscle soreness, regular massage, or workout supplements.
Another option is acupuncture, a popular treatment among professional athletes. It treats overtraining symptoms related to nervous, muscular, and hormonal issues, which is highly beneficial for your recovery.
What is the most common symptom of overtraining?
The most frequent symptoms of overtraining are persistent muscle soreness and fatigue. Your immune system will weaken, and you’ll be more susceptible to recurring injuries. You’ll notice a performance decline and a lack of energy and motivation.
Overtraining will also affect your eating and sleeping habits and make you generally irritable and stressed out. Remember to take these symptoms seriously — the more you prolong the treatment, the more it will take for you to recover.