People always say how exercise is good for you but what most "average" training enthusiasts don't know is how thin is the line between enough and too much exercise. Yup, it happened to me as well four years ago. For someone like me who has always exercised a lot, overtraining might come as a surprise: your body has used to work out hard so why all of a sudden this all becomes too much? It all comes down to recovery. There is a tipping point beyond which the amount of exercise you perform can do more harm than good. This point can be reached by exercising too much with little recovery OR underfueling your body. Pushing your body to its limits can overload the hormonal system: your body will produce too much cortisol which elevates inflammation. It can takes months to recover from over training so prevention is really important.
Signs of overtraining:
- Hunger. You're constantly hungry, no food is enough fuel for your body. You crave for something sweet all the time.
- Hormonal imbalance. You might lose your periods.
- Excessive fatigue. You're tired because you cannot sleep properly. You will wake up during the night and wake up feeling tired.
- You feel unmotivated to workout. This way your body is signaling you to rest more. I was foolish not to listen to this sign. I knew that something was off because usually I feel very motivated to start my workout and these times I felt odd and wondered if I'm in bad shape. But this couldn't be farther away from the truth! It was the total opposite.
- Increase in resting heart rate. This is a signal to your body to slow down. Your body will start to be on "overdrive". I use Fitbit Charge2 everyday and because this measures my resting heart rate on a daily basis, it is easy for me to 'know' when it is time to add some extra rest days. In fact, as soon as it spikes up, I try to react to it and change my work out into a yoga or for a walk in the forest.
How to prevent OTS?
I encourage you to follow a periodized training program which includes enough recovery weeks. When it is written down on a plan you will be sure that you will get enough rest. Rest weeks don't necessarily mean total resting. In fact, it is advisable to have active recovery days, such as steady state walks, restoring yoga (YIN), stretching, mobility exercises or using a foam roll. Previously I wrote about 11 tips how to optimize your recovery.
Now that I think of all this, I have to admit that I am in danger of over training again. Lately I have had difficulties in sleeping and my resting heart rate has increased. As a matter of fact, it has not returned to its normal rate since January.. I should have known better but I was hoping that the heart rate was up because I was sick a lot (I've had many small flues after I recovered from pneumonia). However, I will react to this now before it gets too serious. I will keep you updated how I'm doing. It is always a challenge for me to cut down on exercise.. But now is a good time to invest in my recovery when I'm about to start my winter holiday ☺👌 Tomorrow I'll inform you where I am going..
Lots of self-care to your day,