Stop redlining it! 8 key signs of overtraining
Congrats! You are hitting your training program hard. You are constantly pushing yourself to new levels of personal performance.
You should be proud of your efforts, but how do you know when enough is enough? God forbid if all that hard work results in, gulp, that nemesis of athletes all over the world: overtraining.
My first exposure to overtraining was in high school as a track & field athlete. I competed in the middle distance races and showed promise at distances from 400m to the mile.
These are the most brutal races any track & field athlete could participate in and highly susceptible to overtraining. Unfortunately, my high school track coach had me running a couple meets a week with several races each meet at 90%+ efforts. Hello overtraining!
It is no surprise that I became overtrained during my all-important college recruiting junior season and faded towards the end of the season.
So what happened my senior season? More overtraining? Nope. To many people’s surprise, I did not run my senior season, yet still received a scholarship to run track at The University of Florida, one of the most prestigious programs in the country.
How did this happen? I trained methodically under my dad’s coaching and improved my times enough to place well in the indoor state and national championship meets.
In fact, I raced only 7 times over 5 months at 100% efforts versus 7 times a week for 5 months in my junior season. By aiming for key races, I was able to compete at my highest level when it counted, not when it was convenient just because another meaningless meet was on the schedule.
So what can you learn from this story to avoid overtraining in your own program? And more importantly, what are some key signs of overtraining you should recognize?
1. Do you have an altered resting heart rate? Check your resting heart each morning when you wake up. Do you notice an increase in the rate compared with other days? If so, chances are you may be overtraining.
2. Are you sleeping well? If you are having trouble falling or staying asleep, then you are probably overtrained. Properly trained athletes should sleep through the night without any problem.
3. Longevity of muscle soreness? It is normal to have soreness for a day or two after hard workouts, but anything past the 72 hour mark should be worrisome. It means you body is not recovering properly between workout sessions and needs to rest.
4. Are you getting sick more often? Not just the flu, but chest colds and sinus infections? These are tell-tale signs of overtraining.
5. Plateauing? Training hard usually takes on the “two steps forward, one step back” philosophy. Unfortunately, no one PRs every day, but you should be making progress everyday. If you are having long dry spells without significant gains in your workouts, then you probably would benefit from some rest and switching things up a bit in your program.
6. Failing to complete your normal workout? We have all been there. Something that should be fun and easy is neither. Listen to what your body is telling you–it needs some rest.
7. Are your joints and limbs hurting or making funny sounds? These are natural pain receptors telling your body that something is wrong. Listen to them and take some rest.
8. Training leaves you exhausted, not invigorated? Your training program is in proper equilibrium when you are feeling fresh and excited to attack the days workout. You should never dread it and think of it as anything else but a fun way to stay active and fit.
There is nothing more rewarding in your training program than challenging yourself to be the best you can be. Listen to your body on this journey though. You want to get the most out of your training, not let your training get the most out of you.