Balance Your Workouts to Avoid Overtraining

December 12, 2012 | Jim Carpentier

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There's a common misconception among athletes that working out non-stop will lead to better results. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Too much of a good thing can have negative consequences. In this case, the issue is overtraining .(Learn more about the dangers of overtraining.)

Overtraining occurs when excessive training or sports competition leads to stress and exhaustion, which cause the body to break down. Symptoms of overtraining include fatigue, irritability, disturbed sleep, loss of appetite, depression, decreased immune system function and increased chance of injury.

To avoid overtraining, you need to take a balanced approach and allow your body to recover. However, training too little will do you no good. Below are profiles of three types of athletes with evaluations of their training regimens.

Athlete A

Workout Overview

  • Frequency: 5-6 days per week
  • Duration: 60+ minutes
  • Intensity: 80-90% max
  • Evaluation: highly susceptible to overtraining. Working at such a high intensity repeatedly over the week gives this athlete too little time to recovery, even if he focuses on different muscle groups each day.

Athlete B

Workout Overview

  • Frequency: 3-4 days per week
  • Duration: 45-60 minutes
  • Intensity: 80% max
  • Evaluation: low risk of overtraining. This athlete is striking the balance between training and recovery. He will challenge his body and make strength gains without overly taxing his system. While it's obviously appropriate to train at higher intensities to achieve max strength and power, these phases should only last three to four weeks.

Athlete C

Workout Overview

  • Frequency: 1-2 days per week
  • Duration: 30-45 minutes
  • Intensity: Low
  • Evaluation: minimal risk of overtraining; however, there isn't much training going on here. This athlete needs to find a structured program designed to improve performance. One or two days is better than zero, but it won't help him much in the long run.

Other Factors to Prevent Overtraining

  • Rest 24 to 48 hours between workouts, especially before reworking a muscle group
  • Stick to a sound nutrition plan that provides fuel for your workout and the nutrients you need to recover (learn more about pre- and post-workout nutrition)
  • Sleep seven to nine hours each night
  • Track workout progress to identify performance declines
  • Look for overtraining signs, such as chronic muscle or joint soreness, low energy or repeated illness
Jim Carpentier
- Jim Carpentier, CSCS, is a certified strength and conditioning specialist, New Jersey-licensed massage therapist, and a health/fitness writer. He currently serves as Associate Health and...
Jim Carpentier
- Jim Carpentier, CSCS, is a certified strength and conditioning specialist, New Jersey-licensed massage therapist, and a health/fitness writer. He currently serves as Associate Health and...

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