Overtraining Syndrome: What is It and How to Prevent It

What is overtraining syndrome

For this week’s blog topic, I’ve decided to dive into overtraining syndrome. I hope you liked Bree’s post last week. It was fun that she decided to get her two cents in here too, since she’s got a good perspective on fitness, diet and weight control too. But I’m back behind the wheel here and am ready to talk about the importance of recovery to your intense training workout.

What is Overtraining Syndrome?

Overtraining syndrome is pretty much what the name suggests. It can happen when you continue to work out repeatedly without allowing yourself enough rest and recovery time.  This happens a lot in people who are just getting started pursuing a fitness goal, when the novelty of working out is still there, or when a goal is approaching fast – such as a competition or marathon – and they want to try to get all the gains they can before the big day.

That said, it can happen at any time that you take on workouts – especially those higher in intensity – too frequently without adequate rest and recovery time.

The outcome is fatigue, reduced performance and a higher risk of injury. There’s even an increased risk of illness as it can be harmful to the effectiveness of your immune system.

How to Know if You Have It

Overtraining syndrome is one of those things that is often easier for other people to notice in you than it is for you to see in yourself.  Since it often happens when you’re driven to keep progressing and getting better, it can feel baffling and mysterious when your progress not only seems to slow down, but when it reverses. Suddenly, instead of feeling stronger and more energized, it can feel as though you’re moving back in time. Everything is difficult and your body and mind can feel sluggish.

It’s at these times that other people around you will say “You’ve been working out so hard. Why don’t you give yourself a break,” or something along those lines.  Interestingly, that’s often exactly what you need. Your muscles need time to recover from all the workouts they’ve been enduring.

However, when we’ve been pushing that hard, taking a break – as straightforward as that is – can feel like a failure or a risk of losing ground. It’s absolutely not, but that’s how it can feel.

Preventing Overtraining Syndrome

Preventing overtraining syndrome is just as easy as listening to – and following – that sage advice.  Give that little voice in your head telling you to take a day off to rest a bit of your attention.

Use that time for good sleep, nutrition, and focusing on stress control.  You can do some things that are physically active but keep them gentle compared to your intense workouts. Recovery yoga, meditation, or a relaxing walk outside can all be helpful here.  Do this regularly, not just when you think you’ve pushed things too far.

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