Something we sometimes hear are stories of people being berated by family members and friends for how frequently they are exercising. Often times, people close to you may see drastic changes in your physical appearance and say they you are “OVERTRAINING”.

So what is “overtraining” and how can you tell if you are in fact “overtraining” or if people around you are just jealous ‘cos you’re getting sexy and they are not?

Overtraining occurs when you don’t give your body adequate rest periods between heavy exercise sessions. In the quest for a fitter, stronger and healthier body, we have a tendency to continually push harder for longer and with increasing frequency. We gauge our physical fitness gains on our ability to push our body harder for longer, so this can become the sole focus of our fitness quest!

 While pushing your body to its limits and beyond is essential for sparking the body into adaptation, you need to plan in regular and adequate rest periods so you don’t see the set-backs, injuries, sickness and long lasting plateaus which result from “Overtraining”.

While you rest, your body repairs the damage from your exercise activity. Your body also uses rest time to upgrade your bodies systems to cope with the volume of stress that you put your body through in the intense workouts.

It’s easy to recognise when you are overtraining by simply listening to your body.

If you are overtraining you may feel washed out or lacking in energy. This lack of energy may even be after you’ve had a day or so off of exercise. There are more factors involved in overtraining than just the repair of muscles to! You have to allow for mental relaxation and a complete rest for the central nervous system (this means de-stressing yourself and taking time for your brain to rest). If you need to mentally relax, you may even need time off of work or away from whatever factors are causing you stress before you can get back into meaningful exercise.

If you are overtraining, you may also experience headaches or insomnia, which only compound the problem. Other signs can be a sudden drop in performance, decreased training capacity, soreness and aches in the legs and other limbs even when you haven’t been working them hard, moodiness / irritability and an increased frequency of illness or injuries.

Usually, if you have only been overtraining for a short time (say 3-4 weeks), then 5 or 6 days of relaxation and rest from exercise can do the trick to get you back to normal! If you have been pushing yourself too hard for an extended period of time it can take weeks or even months to get your body’s balance back to normal, so early detection and treatment for overtraining is key.

Long term overtraining can lead to depression and negative thoughts, anger, fear and aggression. Basically the dark side of the force. So if you don’t want to end up as Vader did, make sure you plan in regular rest periods during your weekly activities and take time out for your mental health as a priority!

Rest is just as important as the exercise you are doing to improve your health.

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