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When Exercise Becomes Overtraining and What To Do About It

Every week we wake up and know that eating healthy and exercising on a regular basis is an essential part of our physical and mental well being. Exercising most days of the week for approximately 30-60 minutes not only helps keep our hearts and bodies healthy, but also helps us reach our aesthetic goals. Yet sometimes exercise can lead to an extreme, and our bodies start to go into what is called overtraining syndrome.


What exactly is overtraining? Some of the common signs and symptoms that come when our bodies are put under too much stress related to exercise without adequate amounts of rest can be a washed-out feeling, fatigue, lack of energy, pain in muscles and joints, sudden drops in performance, insomnia, lack of appetite, and decreased immunity. Now it is hard to predict or diagnose overtraining since every body is different, but here are some tips to ensure that you workout your hardest and your best every time you suit up for that run, bike, swim, or weight training workout without letting your body get into an overtraining mode:

  1. Adequate amounts of rest: It is safe to workout every day, but you want to make sure you are changing up your routine and the muscles you are working. For example, if you do a heavy lifting day of legs, light cardio the next day or an upper body and core routine would be the best decision to make to ensure adequate recovery of your legs from the previous days workout. An esteemed colleague once shared an analogy with me that I will share with you here: "your body is like a flower or a plant and needs water to grow, but if you overwater it, it will eventually shrivel up and lose its strength and life." Now you are not going to shrivel up and die like the plant is, but if you continue to break down your muscle tissue and never allow for it to rebuild and grow, you will not receive the benefits that drove you towards your goals of working out in the first place.

  2. Make sure your are fueling your body: Just like a car your body needs fuel or food to survive and to continue to grow and get stronger. If you let your body get to empty and do not refuel it, in time you will be doing a disservice to your health rather than a service. Your body will eventually start using the lean muscle tissue for energy and in turn can cause your metabolism to slow down. Thus instead of rebuilding your muscle tissue, you will be diminishing your muscle elasticity and strength. To ensure you are getting enough calories break your meals up throughout the day into 5-6 mini meals. That way you can help prevent extreme drops in blood sugar and ensure that your body and your metabolism are running like a ferarri.

  3. Adequate hydration is key: Just like food your body needs water in order to maintain and continue to grow as well. The basic rule of thumb is to try and drink half your body weight in ounces each and every day. Now I know that seems like a lot, but, for example, if you are a 140 lb. woman and you divide half your body weight, that is a baseline of 70 ounces per day. 1 sports tops water bottle is approximately 24 ounces, so drinking three of those throughout the day is not too bad. An easy way to ensure you are drinking enough water is accessibility and accountability. Try leaving water bottles or filtered water pitchers in your fridge at home or at work. Also try and replace water for the normal soda, tea, or coffee you may order when you go out to lunch or dinner.

  4. Treat yourself to a deep tissue or sports massage: When our muscles get tired and tight, a great way to release the tightness and cleanse your body of unwanted toxins is to get a relaxing massage. Not only will this help release some tension that has been built up due to exercise, but it will also help clear away unwanted toxins in the body and give you some peace of mind. Massage greatly benefits not only your body but your mind as well. I would suggest adding massage in on a monthly basis if possible.

Exercise should be an essential part of your daily regime, but making sure you are getting plenty of rest, fuel, and hydration is important. Not only will this help ensure that your goals will be reached and your body will continue to grow and get stronger, but you will limit the chance of setting your body up for overtraining.


As first seen in Santa Barbara Fitness Magazine