Over training in itself is fairly simple, not to mention self explanatory. In a nutshell it is training above and beyond your body's ability to adapt positively. Defining overtraining is a tricky matter. Bodybuilding magazines are quick to label a lot of things as overtraining. They caution you to "not go overboard" with cardiovascular exercise. But let's get real here. Those guys are out for one thing and that is maximum muscle mass and minimum body fat. For a magazine to call itself "Muscle And Fitness" and then to focus primarily on bodybuilding is disingenuous to say the least. I question just how "fit" most of those guys are. Could they handle a 6 mile hike with 1200' of elevation change through the Rocky Mountains in August? How about an 8 mile jog at 5:00 A.M.? Maybe they could, but I rather have my doubts. Their focus is single minded and anything that might hinder unreal amounts of muscle is labeled as "overtraining". My focus is on fitness in general, not bodybuilding.

However, I don't mean to imply that overtraining is not real. Your body can only adapt at the pace that it is capable of, and trying to force the issue by working out too much or too often will indeed be detrimental.

  • But how do you know when you have reached that point?
  • What are the causes?
  • What are the symptoms?
  • And most importantly, what is the solution?!


Easy, killer!Easy, killer!OVER-ENTHUSIASM
Easy, killer!

Over-enthusiasm is without a doubt the principle cause of over training. I suspect that research would bear out the fact that the vast majority of over training is a result of beginning weight trainers trying to accomplish too much too quickly. It is a common phenomenon that people who are getting into fitness for the first time, or after an extended absence from training , want to see results NOW! I can definitely relate to, and appreciate, that point of view, but nature works at it's own speed for all of us, and somehow we need to accept that basic fact. Energy must be channeled properly in weight training, not haphazardly. Of course, over-training is not strictly limited to the newcomers, anybody trying to do too much too quickly is doomed to fall to the hazards of over-training. You may think that people who have many years of training under their belts can endure more than beginners, but they still need to recuperate between workouts.


I should point out that this is a relative concept. The amount of working out that constitutes too much can vary, depending on many factors, the most important of which is recuperation. You need to get adequate rest in order for your body to adapt positively. Sleep 8 hours a night and make sure you are getting proper Nutrition, or you may just be spinning your wheels in the weight room. Your muscles will need at least 48 hours in between workouts, and maybe even 72 hours or more. Don't let that worry you. In the long run, you might accomplish more, with less.



WindedI think that the most obvious sign that your body is becoming over-trained is that your energy levels will drop. If you find yourself being able to do less and less in your workouts, then it is a good sign that you are over-training. Your enthusiasm will drop, and even though you are dead tired, you could experience difficulty in falling, or staying, asleep. Your workouts should be intense, to be sure, but they should instill a general feeling of being "energized". When I have a good hard workout in the morning, then have a good breakfast and a shower, I feel like a million bucks so to speak for the rest of the day. If your workout leaves you totally blitzed and feeling worn down, it's a good possibility that you need to cut back a little on the volume of exercise, but keep the intensity level high.


When your body is overtrained, your resting heart rate goes up in a kind of compensatory defense action. This is kind of hard to detect, but you could check your heart rate every morning for a few days with no training, and if it goes down, then chances are good that you had been over trained. If you are overly anxious and filled with anxiety, these are not healthy reactions. Make sure that you are not overdoing it with caffeine, energy drinks or fat burners as well. Personally, I would just say avoid all of those altogether, but that is a personal choice.



I am sure that most of us can handle this one! To overcome the effects of over-training, take a little time away from the weight bench, the treadmill, or anything else for that matter, and relax. It could be a day, it could be several days, you'll need to determine that. Don't be concerned with getting fat during this time, because if you have in fact over-trained your system, then your body will need a lot of quality nutrients to reverse the damage that has been done. I stress, Quality nutrients, not Big-Macs and fries.


I want to make a definite distinction here. Muscle soreness does not mean over-training. Research indicates that muscle soreness is more than likely caused by micro trauma to muscle fibers. This is not a bad thing. Think of what happens when you cut yourself, and then the wound heals over, but there is a little bit more tissue there than there was before. This is a crude and somewhat inaccurate example of what happens in weight training. Your muscles need to experience some trauma in order to adapt and grow. Muscle soreness is the sensoral manifestation of that trauma. Of course, this soreness should not be too severe or long lasting. If you experience severe, sharp pain you may just have injured yourself. As for myself, there is no more satisfying feeling than that deep, itchy, warm soreness that is the telltale sign of a muscle that has been worked thoroughly.

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Workouts That Work

September 11, 2001