Overtraining can affect anyone who exercises regularly, not just endurance athletes. Increasing the frequency, duration and intensity of your workout program too quickly can lead to this syndrome, which manifests in a myriad of ways. Symptoms such as chronic soreness, fatigue, unexplained weight loss, apathy about your workouts, insomnia, moodiness, loss of appetite or an increase in your resting heart rate indicate possible overtraining syndrome. Each workout becomes harder, but you fail to see gains in your performance. If you are suffering the symptoms of overtraining, take immediate measures to rest your body and heal.
Prevent overtraining in the first place by providing yourself enough rest between workouts. Take at least one day a week to participate in a light activity like restorative yoga, gardening or an easy stroll. Endurance athletes competing for events such as a marathon should follow a pre-set training plan that amps up mileage over time. Cross-training can also help you prevent overtraining -- if you are a runner, try a cycling class once or twice a week or do yoga to enhance flexibility and core strength.
- Prevent overtraining in the first place by providing yourself enough rest between workouts.
- Endurance athletes competing for events such as a marathon should follow a pre-set training plan that amps up mileage over time.
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In mild cases of overtraining, two days to a week off might be enough to restore your body. The American Council on Exercise notes that sometimes overtraining may be cured by simply moderating your training intensity 1. If you are training for a triathlon, cut back on one of the runs or long bicycle rides. You may fear losing your edge, but when you come back a week or two later, you will find your body is stronger and more resiliant.
- In mild cases of overtraining, two days to a week off might be enough to restore your body.
Severe cases of overtraining in which multiple symptoms are present -- particularly weight loss, decreased fitness gains, physical injuries and decreased immunity -- may require several weeks or even months of rest. This might be the time to bow out of an upcoming competition and recognizing that any fitness gains you have made will only suffer if you keep pushing beyond your body's limits. Do not compare yourself to other athletes. Every body reacts differently to training stimuli, and just because they can push a certain training protocol does not mean it's appropriate for you.
- Severe cases of overtraining in which multiple symptoms are present -- particularly weight loss, decreased fitness gains, physical injuries and decreased immunity -- may require several weeks or even months of rest.
- Every body reacts differently to training stimuli, and just because they can push a certain training protocol does not mean it's appropriate for you.
Seek Medical Advice
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If you find that after several days or weeks of rest you are still feeling tired all the time, a visit to the doctor might be in order. Mention that you are concerned about overtraining. Dr. William O. Roberts, former president of the American College of Sports Medicine, told the New York Times in 2008 that he recommends seeking out a sports medicine doctor who understands the physical and psychological pressures faced by athletes.
Overtrained athletes sometimes suffer from low iron levels and anemia. These conditions, which can cause weakness and fatigue, are diagnosed with a simple blood test. If you are low on iron, supplements will be prescribed by your doctor and they may help restore your energy and enthusiasm for training.
- Overtrained athletes sometimes suffer from low iron levels and anemia.
- These conditions, which can cause weakness and fatigue, are diagnosed with a simple blood test.
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- American Council on Exercise: Too Much of a Good Thing
- Kemibe.com: The Overtraining Detective
- NewYorkTimes.com: When Training Backfires: Hard Work That’s Too Hard;" Gina Kolata
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Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.