Are you a victim of over-training?
Are you getting sick more often than normal?
Do you feel sluggish, lethargic, and unmotivated?
What about sleep, are you restless at night?
Over-training is a topic I believe doesn’t get enough press in the fitness and health community.
Sure, the majority of the population does need to pick up exercising… But the vast majority of health conscious people may need to take it down a notch.
Over-training can give way to an upheaval of stress in your bloodstream. In this article I plan to address what “over-training” is, how you can tell if you are over-doing it, and what to do about it.
Disclaimer: Everybody is different and every person responds differently to certain types and amounts of exercise.
Firstly, it’s important to understand that every person is different. Some readers may be in their late teens with sky-high testosterone levels where some may be older and just trying to recover from making it up the stairs. Age and hormonal health do play a role.
Essentially, your hormonal health will dictate how well you adapt to different stimuli of physical exercise. Having a healthier and more balanced hormonal profile will allow you to respond to a more intense stimuli. With that said, everybody should be looking to optimize their hormonal health and one way to do that is to not over-train, or over-exercise.
What is this “over-training” thing anyway?
Over-training or over-exercising (whatever you like to call it) is simply when you are overdoing it on your body physically. This can also be known as physical burn-out. You’re simply working too hard and too much.
Think about that last sentence, “you’re simply working too hard and too much.” In essence, this kind of goes against our natural instinct. Naturally, our body is inclined to want to work hard to get a reward… Work long and hard on your business or your classes and you’ll usually get rewarded for it. Spend quality time with your family and friends and you’ll eventually make lasting relationships. What about exercise? Spend lots of time in your workouts day in and day out and you’ll get the results you’re after? Not necessarily.
On a hormonal level, our system does well with some stress. Our body has a certain threshold that we need to come to the brink of. Pass over that threshold and you’re in trouble. This is known as what Christopher Walker at Anabolicmen.com calls the “Testosterone Work Principle”. Once again, if you’re a female reading this and cringe at the word testosterone, don’t worry – the chance of testosterone changing your biochemistry is very unlikely and insanely minimal very unlikely and exceedingly minimal. It can potentially also be known as adrenal fatigue syndrome since you’re burning your system out.
What are some of the signs of passing over this threshold?
Well, there are a number of them. For one, your cortisol (the primary hormone responsible for a stress response) skyrockets. Some studies show that over-training will internally start killing off healthy cells in the body. Along with this, oxidative stress increases, cytotoxins start to take place in your body (really bad substance toxic to your bodies cells), and sleep & mood suffers (study 6). In addition to these major health problems, the symptoms are pretty rough too.
- Anxiety (study 1)
- Skyrocketed stress hormone cortisol (study 2)
- Get sick more often (2007 Journal of Applied Social Psychology study)
- Mental confusion (podcast supported by studies)
- Abnormal pain in the joints, bones, and limbs says Mark’s Daily Apple
- Concentration issues (podcast)
- Increased chance of irritability (article)
- Inability to finish your workouts (credible article)
- You complain more (credible article)
- Loss of competitive desire and ambition (article, yes it’s credible )
- Testosterone plummets (study 2)
- Regenerative Growth Hormone declines (study 2)
- Strength in the gym starts to go downhill (study 3)
- Inability to relax and calm down at night (another credible article)
- Lack of libido (another one worth reading)
- Restless nights (study 4)
- You look “puffier, softer, or chubbier” due to the increased water retention (read about water retention here)
- Elevated morning blood pressure and walking heart rate pulse (article)
Along with that monotonous and extensive list, there are a few questions to ask yourself.
Are you feeling restless night?
Are you working out hard everyday of the week?
Do you feel overly fatigued and sluggish?
When you do workout, do you feel drained after it for hours? Days?
A reason for a number of these issues is largely due to the fact that over-training puts you in a constant sympathetic dominated nervous system state. This state activates the fight-or-flight response our ancestors needed in times of hunting or running from predators. Now, we activate this state by temporarily exposing it to stresses like exercise. The goal (especially towards the end of the day) is to be in the parasympathetic dominated state which usually gives way to a more realxed feeling, something very
important for getting to sleep during the night.
What To Do To Avoid “Over-training Syndrome”
Well, lowering your stress levels through the habits I outline here on Tranquilized Mind is a sure-fire way to go about it. If you don’t want to read the 20+ articles and videos, here’s a quick guide.
Making sleep a priority is a must if you’re trying to avoid the chronically elevated stress levels that come from over-training. Sleeping is when your body recovers from the tackles life throws at us. Learning how to get good rest every night will keep your recovery up to snuff and will allow you to enjoy life at a higher rate, you can read more about this here.
There’s nothing cool about bragging that you only got 4 hours of sleep since Testosterone drops about 15% per hour lost of sleep (study 5). Sleep more and sleep better.
Exercise…But not too much.
This whole article is about avoiding over-training. It’s not about avoiding training. Exercising is a very effective form of stress we must put on our bodies. With that said, it should not be done in excess. If you’re new to working out, aim for three short and intense workouts a week with lots of daily activity. Walking and sports with friends are my go-to choices. If you’re an avid exerciser, consider dropping your workouts down (as this is ideal for recovery and anabolism – you’re ability to build muscle tone and burn fat), and if that doesn’t persuade, check out Greg O’Gallagher from Kinobody. The guy works out three, sometimes two times a week and looks better than most of the people hitting the gym every day. More is not better.
Fuel Your Body
Get your diet in check. A diet filled with processed junk won’t do any justice for someone looking to decrease their chance of over-training syndrome. More so, a diet filled with processed junk won’t do any justice for someone looking to balance out and lower their stress levels. As I outlined here, start eating a pro-hormone and pro-gut health wholesome diet.
Keep Your Stress Levels In Check
Yes, getting in control of your stress levels will allow you to avoid over-training. Keeping your stress levels low and balanced amp up recovery from exercise and any kind of activity.
Let’s put it this way. Take Person A, who like to hit the gym hard 4 times a week and enjoys playing a little pigskin with his friends on the weekends. He also enjoys some active meditation and listens to audiobooks while he’s walking in between classes, to get groceries, etc. Person B on the other hand enjoys lifting weights 6 times a week. Outside of that his hobbies are drinking protein shakes and counting calories… Who do you think will be able to recover from their workouts more efficiently, Person A or B?
Lower base cortisol levels allows for healing hormones and your body to recoup from intense workouts where you can learn more about it here.
What To Do If You ARE Over-Trained
Take a break from the gym.
And sleep lots. Obviously you don’t want to go days without doing anything – I’m not saying to sit on your couch and watch a season of Narcos in three days! Engage in active recovery. Go for long walks in nature, and enjoy some beach volleyball with your friends! Life isn’t about working out… Exercising is there to enhance your life, not take it over.
A good protocol to follow is to take about 5 days to a week off from any form of structured “exercise”. After about three days you’ll usually begin to notice an urge of energy. This is good, your body is negating the the over-training symptoms; the lack of energy, the poor immune system is beginning to fade away. Hormones are starting to get back to a balanced range. Continue enjoying some nice activity and wait a few more days to get ready to hit the gym hard again… but smart.
Avoid Over-Training To Avoid Elevated Stress
As noted, over-training is one of the worst things you can do for yourself if you’re trying to improve your stress levels. Try to avoid this like the plague – don’t get involved with it.
Follow the guidelines I outlined here and start to enjoy working out again.
In future articles I plan to talk about how you should be exercising and what type of exercising is best for your stress levels. Stay tuned.
One Last Thing
Thank you all for reading this, I truly hope you found it of good information. If you found this article useful and enjoyed it – please share it! Share it with someone who spends too much time in the gym ;).