Most of us know at least one compulsive exerciser and maybe we’re just a wee bit jealous of their dedication to their training or the fact that they actually go to the gym every day. But should we be? While many of us don’t get enough exercise, it is possible to exercise too frequently or too intensely. Regular moderate exercise is indeed a necessary part of long term good health maintenance. However, when overdone, exercise may actually become detrimental to a healthy functioning body. Some may not realize that recovery is just as important to optimal fitness as exercise, especially when working out at a high intensity level. While many of us exercise to remain healthy and grow stronger, when the amount of exercise exceeds the body’s ability to recover, your body may actually become weaker. It’s your body’s way of telling you that it needs rest. For many dedicated athletes and physically active people, resting is not an easy thing to do.
It’s true that pushing yourself to the limit can increase your endurance and help you reach your peak physical and mental performance. But as all exercise causes some trauma to the body, you can only get stronger if you allow sufficient time for recovery. Exercise breaks down muscle tissue and creates tiny micro-tears. Recovery time is critical because it gives the body time to repair the muscle damage. As the muscles repair, they build and gradually grow stronger. How do you really know if you are pushing too hard or exercising too intensely or too often? With overtraining, the body has been repeatedly stressed to the point where rest is no longer adequate for recovery. Generally, in these cases, recovery will happen but it may take days, weeks or even months. A rest/recovery imbalance can result in fatigue, injury or illness.
Here are some signs of exercise overload and the need for a longer recovery time between workouts:
- You notice a drop in your performance level. If you notice decreased performance or feel you have reached a plateau, you are overtraining to the point that your level of training exceeds your capacity to recover. Also known as burnout, you are not giving the exercise-induced micro-tears in your muscles time to adequately recover.
- You feel fatigued, as opposed to energized. Fatigue sometimes goes unrecognized as a sign of overtraining. While some may be tempted to exercise and try to push through for a short term energy boost, you are likely to feel even more fatigued later on. It’s best to rest and recover before pushing on.
- Your muscles are chronically sore. If your muscles are still sore 24 – 48 hours after training, it’s possible you are overtraining and are more susceptible to injury. On these days, light stretching or yoga is the way to go.
- Your resting heart rate is elevated. Get to know your normal resting heart rate. When your resting heart rate is elevated, it’s a clue that you need to rest or do low impact exercise that day.
- You have trouble sleeping. Getting adequate sleep is essential to peak performance and overall good health. Monitor the quantity and quality of your sleep. If you notice changes in your sleep patterns, you may be overdoing it.
- You get sick often or it takes longer to recover. Compulsive exercisers are more prone to illness and infection. Research shows that overtraining can lead to changes in natural killer cell activity that may negatively affect immune function. If you’re not feeling up to par, don’t push yourself, as a weakened immune system can lead to inflammation, known to be an underlying factor in many chronic illnesses.
- Your legs feel heavy. If there’s no bounce in your step, your muscles have not had time to fully recover, recharge and repair.
- You have an increased injury rate. Injuries such as tendonitis and shin splints are the result of repetitive trauma, improper technique and overuse. If you are experiencing muscle or joint paint, it’s time for a break and some recovery time.
- You are moody and irritable. While exercise releases endorphins that make you feel great, your body also releases cortisol–the stress hormone. Extended high cortisol levels take a toll on your mental health. If you become aware of mood changes, adjust your training accordingly.
Regular exercise at the appropriate level will increase muscle mass and decrease body fat. Low impact exercise such as walking, swimming, yoga or tai chi will give your body the movement that it needs and will also strengthen the lungs and heart, reduce stress and lessen the risk of injury. High intensity exercise or training requires pushing your body to the limit and puts significantly more stress on the joints, connective tissues and muscles. Varying activities and alternating between low intensity and high intensity activity may provide the most health benefits. Ideally, high intensity training should be followed by a recovery period and optimal nutrition. Be sure to hydrate well before, during and after exercise. Prevention is the best way to avoid symptoms of overtraining.
Professional Supplement Center offers these and many other high quality products that support exercise, endurance and recovery:
Corvalen® D-Ribose by Douglas Laboratories – This natural pentose sugar is designed to address fatigue and support energy production, cardiovascular health and mitochondrial function. Corvalen® has been clinically proven to replenish core energy and accelerate natural energy production, while reducing muscle soreness or stiffness. Gluten, dairy and soy free, vegetarian formulation.
Athletic Nutrients by Pure Encapsulations – Specifically designed to support physical training and performance, this complete, hypo-allergenic, nutrient rich formula targets endurance, promotes energy and lessens muscle fatigue. Gluten and soy free, Non-GMO vegetarian formulation.
Cortisol Manager™ by Integrative Therapeutics – This standardized proprietary blend of botanicals and stress-reducing adaptogens provides safe, natural, non-habit forming support for all-day stress reduction, balanced cortisol levels and restorative sleep without daytime drowsiness. Gluten free, vegetarian formulation.
Klean Recovery™ by Klean Athlete – This naturally flavored powdered protein blend provides a proven ratio of carbohydrate to protein that supports glycogen re-synthesis and muscle protein synthesis for optimal muscle recovery immediately after exercise. Gluten and soy free, Non-GMO, NSF Certified for Sport® formulation.
Rest for the Weary. http://www.rice.edu/~jenky/sports/rest.html
Overtraining-what happens when you do too much. http://hprc-online.org/physical-fitness/hprc-articles/overtraining2014what-happens-when-you-do-too-much
Changes In Sleep Pattern May Signal Overtraining. http://www.runnersworld.com/newswire/changes-in-sleep-pattern-may-signal-overtraining
10 Signs You’re Exercising Too Much. http://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/on-fitness/2010/11/05/10-signs-youre-exercising-too-much