We all know that strength and conditioning can cause soreness and fatigue but when is it too much? Some days we might show up lacking motivation or we don’t perform our best but when does that become a bigger concern?
No one single issue is concerning in and of itself, but rather a whole host of symptoms being present should be a red flag.
Ask yourself if you are experiencing many or most of these symptoms:
- Decreased performance
- Increased perceived effort during workouts
- Excessive fatigue
- Chronic, nagging injuries
- Insomnia or restless sleep
- Irritability or moodiness
- Lack of motivation to train
- Lack of appetite
When I first started training 6 years ago I was always sore and proud of it. I was grumpy at times but never considered that my workouts could be the cause. Some days I was too sore and tired to complete daily tasks like housework and cooking! I would lie awake with what felt like restless leg syndrome and twitchy muscles. I was in a hurry to get fitter and stronger but now I see that it was downright masochistic and looking back I can see how counterproductive it all was. I created so much unnecessary suffering when I could have been enjoying training.
When you push to 100% at every workout and feel chronically sore, I guarantee you will get hurt. You won’t be able to sense the difference between the beginnings of an injury and normal soreness if you are always in pain. You may be giving 100% effort during training but you definitely won’t be getting 100% of the results. Your body needs time to recover in order to maximize gains.
Here are some strategies to prevent overtraining:
- Prioritize sleep – If you skimp on sleep you are robbing yourself of the muscle gains you worked so hard for! Your body produces its own muscle-building hormones while you sleep, including human growth hormone (HGH). During non-rapid eye movement sleep, blood flow to your muscles increases, and tissue growth and repair occurs. During REM sleep, the muscles relax, which can help relieve tension and reduce symptoms of certain types of chronic pain. In fact, many of the critical restorative functions in the body—like tissue repair and muscle growth—occur mostly or only during sleep. A consistent sleep schedule of seven to nine hours a night (possibly more if you are a competitive athlete) will help the muscle-healing process. (https://www.sleep.org/articles/how-sleep-adds-muscle/)
- Incorporate enough recovery time – I’ve often told people that in order to get fitter you will eventually need to spend 20+ minutes per day outside of the workout on recovery. This refers to activities such as soft tissue work, recovery workouts, accessory work/stretches, and meal prep. Most people will resist this investment! But you can either invest the time now or be forced to do it later due to injury. Ask a coach to determine what recovery work would benefit you most.
- Proper nutrition – One of my favorite lines is: “You can’t out-exercise a bad diet.” At some point, poor nutrition is going to hold you back in your fitness. When you’re new to training you might be thinking, “This is awesome! I can drink beer and eat pizza and I’m still losing weight!” A year later, “Hey! I’m doing all the same stuff but I’m exhausted, still look the same and haven’t gotten stronger! What gives?” If you take time to learn about nutrition, cooking, and portion sizes, it will be a great investment. There’s a reason why top athletes eat their veggies and lean protein.
- Vary your training – The easiest way to do this? Come to the SHOP every day. Don’t cherry-pick workouts because you don’t like some of them! We program constantly varied functional movement so you don’t have to figure it out. And if you’re an endurance athlete it’s more important to show up on strength days to bring balance to your training and remember to take rest seasons to recover from training for long races.
If you are overtraining it can be hard to recognize. Take a few rest days and include light movement like a short hike, bike ride, or yoga. Let your body FULLY recover and remember what it’s like to pop out of bed with energy, not feel stiff and sore, and be hungry for a challenging workout. This is how you should feel MOST days.
Today I think I’ve found a good balance. I know that quality training doesn’t even need to leave me sore every time and that it’s possible to look forward to training EVERY DAY. But I had to learn to dial it back and play the long game. I ask myself, where do I want to be in 10, 20, 30, 40 years? I want to still be training.