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Throughout the course of the last few months, have you been feeling increasingly tired, not fully recovered before your next workout, frequently sick or afflicted with persistent injuries? If you answered yes to any of these, you could be suffering from overtraining syndrome. (See also Are You Overtraining or Under-Recovering?)
Overtraining happens when an individual trains with excessive volume (reps and sets), frequency (days), and/or intensity (heavy weights) over a long period. Overtraining can lead to extreme fatigue, illness and injury. Major contributors are poor eating habits, inadequate rest between workouts and insufficient quality sleep. Overtraining shouldn't be confused with muscle soreness, a normal 48- to 72-hour occurrence after an intense workout.
The National Strength and Conditioning Association divides overtraining into four stages of increasing severity.
- Stage 1: Slightly altered coordination with little or no effect on performance
- Stage 2: Altered coordination and hormone activity with little to no effect on performance
- Stage 3: Decreased coordination and muscle's ability to store nutrients; increased heart rate, blood pressure and mood swings that likely lead to decreased performance
- Stage 4: Decrease in strength, sickness and infection, mood swings and trouble sleeping that lead to decrease in performance and injury.
What to do if you recognize symptoms
Depending on how severe your symptoms are, it becomes very important to stop training for at least two to four weeks and focus on nutrition and rest. This will allow your body to go back to a healthy state. (See Balance Your Workouts to Avoid Overtraining.)
As an athlete, you take great pride in your daily commitment to practices and weight training to ensure peak performance on game day. Although it may seem natural to put in more time and work at a high intensity, too much of anything is never a good thing. Set realistic goals for your training routine and give your muscles 48 to 72 hours of rest between workouts. This is good insurance to make you the best you can be.