Overtraining 102 – Symptoms, Remedies and Prevention

While we are on the topic of overtraining let’s beat that horse to death. For folks who missed yesterday’s post, here it is. Overtraining 101 was an introduction to overtraining since most people probably don’t even know that such a thing exists. Today I’ll talk about symptoms of overtraining to see if you are indeed overtrained or close to it and then about how to prevent and/or remedy it.

Symptoms

The first part of any problem is to understand that you have a problem and overtraining is no exception. You need to realize that you are overtraining and for that you need to listen to your body. Trust me when I say your body is always talking to you. The following are some common symptoms of overreaching* or overtraining in some cases.

  1. A feeling of general tiredness during the day a.k.a. chronic fatigue
  2. Blunt incessant aches/pains in some joints. This happens mostly if you’ve been doing the same activity (running, squatting, biking etc.) over and over again.
  3. Increased heart rate and basal metabolic rate (BMR) during the day.
  4. Gradual drop in performance (strength or endurance) or plateauing.
  5. Fat loss plateauing.
  6. Lack of appetite.
  7. Disturbed sleep
  8. Menstrual disruptions.
  9. Lack of energy and drive immediately after waking even after a good night’s sleep.
  10. Chronic hunger during the day.
  11. Lack of motivation to workout or stay active.
  12. Frequent headaches and gastrointestinal issues.
  13. Not being able to shut off your mind before bed time.

Note: These are also symptoms of another very widespread and dangerous disease. This disease has affected the entire world and science does not seem to have an antidote for this. It’s called laziness. If you suffer from this disease, I suggest you stop looking for excuses and start moving that fat heiney of yours.

Remedies

Keep in mind though that these are pretty common symptoms that can be triggered by non-training related stresses too. Sleep deprivation and a diet composed of nutritionally poor ingredients can produce almost all these symptoms with or without training. That said, let’s look into a couple of scenarios and the respective remedies.

Case 1:

  • Sleep is bad. Nutrition is bad. Training volume is too high.

Remedy:

  • Week off.
  • Fix nutrition.
  • 3 stretching sessions (M-W-F or T-H-S)

Case 2:

  • Sleep is good. Nutrition is bad. Training volume is too high.

Remedy:

  • Maintain training intensity.
  • Drop training volume.
  • Fix nutrition.
  • Additional rest day.
  • Stretch on rest days.

Case 3:

  • Sleep is bad. Nutrition is good. Training volume is too high.

Remedy:

  • Couple of days off. Increase sleep duration by 25-50% during the off days.
  • Maintain training intensity and training volume.

Case 4:

  • Sleep is good. Nutrition is good. Training volume is too high.

Remedy:

  • Maintain training intensity.
  • Drop training volume. Perform static stretching for 10-15mins post workout.
  • Revisit supplementation.
  • Additional rest day.
  • Stretch on rest days.

Case 5:

  • Sleep is good. Nutrition is good. Training volume is just right.

Remedy:

  • Drop training intensity for a week.
  • Maintain training volume. Perform static stretching for 10-15mins post workout.
  • Revisit supplementation.
  • Revisit sleep quality. Sleep in a pitch black room with no disturbances.
  • Additional rest day.
  • Stretch on rest days.

Key:

Week off means…

  • Take the whole week off.
  • Don’t even drive close to your gym/training center.
  • Light activity (walking your dog etc.) can be done everyday.
  • Sleep 9 to 11 hours everyday.

Fix nutrition means…

  • Drop cereal grains, sugars and other foods that contain no nutritional value.
  • Increase intake of vegetables, eggs and meats. Increase starches (yams etc.) and fruit if required.
  • Eating plenty of good food but make sure you are not overeating. Fuel your body based on the level of activity.

Stretch means…

  • Perform a 40-60min session of full body stretching.
  • Yoga can be performed instead.

Drop training volume means…

  • Reduce your total training volume. 6 sets of 6 reps will become either 3 sets of 6 reps or 4 sets of 4-5 reps. 20 miles of running per week will become 10 miles.

Maintain training intensity means…

  • Stick to using the same loads or speed as the case may be.

Drop training intensity means…

  • Drop the weight or speed down as the case may be.

Additional rest day means…

  • In addition to your existing rest day, add one more.
  • If you currently don’t have a rest day, you’re stupid.

Revisit supplements means…

  • If you’re not having fish oil start immediately. If you already are ensure you are taking in enough. If you are taking in enough look behind the bottle to make sure you’re getting enough EPA/DHA and not just ALA.
  • If you’re not taking in a multi-vitamin everyday, start immediately.
  • Vitamin D3 supplementation is super important. Get about 4000-6000 IUs everyday. And no you won’t get enough sunlight to compensate for the supplementation.
  • Get a good magnesium supplement and consume ~ 400mg per day.

Prevention:

For those of you who are already overtrained, the above stated remedies should help. But for those who are not overtrained (yet), obviously prevention is better than sure right? The only way to prevent overtraining (which will result in burn-out and injury) is by smart training. Multiple posts can be written about smart training, but to summarize,

  • Keep training volume high enough to produce result but low enough to prevent CNS overload and/or joint overuse.
  • Oscillate between high intensity days and low intensity days during the week.
  • Work different energy pathways to avoid burn-out.
  • Track your workouts and be aware of performance drop or rise.
  • Eat plenty of nutrient rich foods like vegetables, eggs and meat.
  • If endurance training is your thing be sure to get the required carbs in the form of natural starches like yams and sweet potatoes. Occasional consumption of rice will probably help in this case.
  • Make a conscious effort to get the required amount of Omega-3s.
  • Listen to your body and get plenty of rest between training sessions.
  • Perform static stretches after every training session.

Peace.

* Overreaching: An accumulation of training and/or non-training stress resulting in a short-term decrement in performance capacity with or without related physiological and psychological signs and symptoms of overtraining in which restoration of performance capacity may take from several days to several weeks.

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One response to “Overtraining 102 – Symptoms, Remedies and Prevention

  1. Pingback: Raj, it’s just a workout! « Harder. Better. Faster. Stronger.

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