I love training. Most of my clients do. There are a ton of benefits for training and exercising.
Exercising (specifically weight training) improves your joint health, increases muscle mass, improves body composition, increases resting metabolism, decreases stress, improves cardiovascular health, and so much more.
As with anything, however, you can always do too much. Overtraining is something that is very common and causes a TON of problems.
The problem we find with “exercising” is that we place too much of an emphasis on it rather than all areas within our lives.
You want to lose weight? You go to the gym.
You’re stressed? You go to the gym.
Most people are way more resistant to changing their nutrition, drinking appropriate amounts of water, improving mindset, and getting 8 hours of sleep per night.
But they can go to the gym for 3 hours.
It’s not your fault. It’s been hammered in your mind probably since you were a little kid. Kids are put in sports and activities before they even start school, yet no one teaches them how to eat, drink, and sleep well.
Because of this mindset, you set yourself up to be overtrained.
Tunnel vision towards losing weight puts you at the gym for hours, pushes your limits (too much), and probably at the same time results in you eating less…all recipes for disaster and overtraining.
This article will help you determine if you’re overtraining yourself and then provide 3 strategies to keep you doing strong while also staying healthy!
Are you overtraining yourself? Ask yourself these questions. Be honest with yourself.
You are always hurt or injured or always sore.
You have very disjointed and interrupted sleep. You wake up in the middle of the night 2-3 times.
You can no longer push yourself as hard. You feel like you can only give 60% effort instead of the usual 100%. You can’t go into that second gear anymore.
Your motivation is just shot. You find excuses to not eat healthy or go to the gym.
You’re fatigued at literally all times during the day.
You always have headaches or even dizziness mid-workout.
If you answered yes to any of these, READ BELOW! If not, still read below… because this is just as helpful for you.
Most people say “well… just stop doing it.” Yes, that would solve a lot of problems… but that’s not the greatest approach in my opinion because some people simply won’t quit. My approach to this is different. I don’t say “don’t do CrossFit” (something many CrossFitters hear) or “just don’t go to the gym as much” or “stop lifting heavy” or anything else…because you have the training modality that you love and that suits you. Can you be a bit smarter? Yes, but it doesn’t mean remove it completely. I have tried not doing CrossFit and opting for a more sustainable “bodybuilding type” of exercise and HATED it. Does that mean functional lifting or isolated exercises are bad for you? NO. They’re great, but they’re not going to keep me in the gym. I like to be with people. I like to relieve my stress by going hard in the gym and throwing it all out there. I accepted this! You can, too! You just have to now meet your body halfway and give it the love and care it deserves.
3 Steps to Avoiding Overtraining (so you can train forever)
Before I start, let’s answer the question you might be thinking…”WHY?” “Why does it matter?”
Overtraining, burnout, fatigue, whatever you call it ultimately puts you further from reaching your goal. You’re chronically inflamed, your sleep is garbage, stress is at an all time high, your body is prone to injury, and more. All of these are going to create a pretty poor environment for your body. Your body needs to feel safe to lose weight or even build muscle. Doing too much is going to just make it harder to see results. If you’re damaging your muscles because you’re working them too much too often, then they’ll never grow because all the energy in your body is going straight to repairing damage. If you’re constantly stressed, cortisol is going to increase cravings and hunger, increase bloat, and decrease mental willpower…all things that make losing weight near impossible.
Alright, rant over. Let’s get back to those three strategies.
1. Take a rest day.
NOT an active recovery day… a full on rest day where you rest. Hiking 5 miles, a light 30 min run, or even hot or vinyasa yoga is not rest. It’s still getting you in that sympathetic nervous system mode and we want to be in full-blown parasympathetic—rest and digest—nervous system mode. Opt for yin yoga or simply light stretching. Get a massage or take an Epsom salt bath. You want to flush some of that inflammation out that is causing your problem. Rest days are subjective but you should be having at least 2/week. If you’re sore and you’re feeling burnt out, take a rest day. You may miss a fun workout, but it’s better to come back feeling fresh and energized rather than having a crappy workout. There is a time and place for cardio and active recovery, but not at the expense of your health.
2. Eat more.
1500 calories is NOT enough, end of story. If you’re going to be stubborn and do workouts that drive you to the dark place, you HAVE to meet your body halfway. Stop avoiding carbs. Stop avoiding protein. These are essential for you to recover and exercise for a long time. Eating carbs protects your muscles. The carbs you eat are used as fuel… if you don’t eat carbs, your body is going to take the fuel from your muscles. Want gainz? Sorry, you don’t get any until you start eating the right foods. This doesn’t mean you HAVE to eat pasta, rice, or sugary processed foods. Up your veggie game, eat starchy vegetables or root vegetables for some of the extra carbs. Throw in some fruit. A large gala apple has 40g carbs. You can do it… and you honestly need to if you want to get back to feeling normal in the gym and avoid burnout.
3. Find balance and evaluate your intensity.
Are you going 110% at all times in the gym? Even on the accessory work? Are you willing to scale that down slightly? Give yourself 2-3 days/week you’re going 100-110%. Take the rest of the week and go only at an intentional 60-70% effort. If the workout is 5 rounds, let’s try 3 rounds or a simple AMRAP but every rep has to be done perfectly. You can still go with the class and you’re still doing the workout but you’re managing your recovery and intended stimulus better. I can guarantee if you do this, you might get even more of a workout.
Now you may argue with me on the third one… but let me ask you an important question. Are you going to the Olympics or the CrossFit Games? Could you even if you tried? I hate to say it…but likely not. Would you rather workout until you’re 40 or until you’re 80 or even 100? There's nothing wrong with going into the gym with drive and intensity. I give myself one day a week to just go all out. I just balance it with 4-5 other days of smart, intelligent programming.
If you’re a professional, elite athlete and your career depends on your fitness level, then you do need to up the intensity more often. You’re 100% performance driven and that’s okay, but understand that you can’t maintain this as long and you will face burnout if you don’t properly recover and fuel yourself. You will also most likely have to quit sooner in life and won’t be able to continue forever. And if this is you, hire a coach, both a training coach and a nutrition coach because you need unbiased eyes.
If you’re just the everyday gym-goer, you don’t need to treat every workout like your life is on the line. You want and should be wanting to train and exercise for years to come. When you’re 50 years old and have to quit because you’ve just wrecked your body, will you regret how you treated your body in your 20s and 30s? Will you wish you had told yourself to slow it down every once in a while? What will you do for fitness when you can’t do CrossFit? Lift? Run? Swim? Be honest with yourself. These tips are meant to keep you in the gym longer and requires just a little bit of effort on your part to keep you fit for life.
This is something that I work on with all of my clients. If you’re looking for unbiased guidance on your training AND your nutrition, apply here for a [free] consultation call.