Overtraining is a physical, behavioral, and emotional condition that occurs when the volume and intensity of an individual’s exercise exceeds their recovery capacity. They cease making progress, and can even begin to lose strength and fitness. Many people think that overtraining happens all at once, when in reality, there are three levels with the third being overtraining syndrome.
The first level which is called overload training is what every athlete and lifter experience. It is hard training followed by a short term fatigue with adequate time given for muscle recovery. The next level, or level 2, is known as overeaching. At this stage you may start to see the symptoms of overtraining(listed here)and your performance start to suffer i.e. your lifts stalling or getting weaker. At this stage 1-2 weeks off for recovery should suffice and all symptoms should relinquish, along with you gaining strength in the gym again. If however you do not listen to your body and end up pushing past this point, then this is when level three A.K.A overtraining syndrome kicks in.
Overtraining syndrome is characterized as a decrease in performance combined with stress-related mental and physical problems that can range in severity from mild to severe. Excessive amounts of cortisol are released(cortisol is the hormone that breaks down muscle tissue and increases body fat storage) and testosterone levels can even decrease causing mood-swings and depression/irritability. This stage can take anywhere from months to years to overcome. The symptoms are listed below:
-Loss of appetite
-Loss of motivation
-Short term insomnia
-Constipation or diarrhea
-Loss of competitive drive
-Abnormal sense perceptions
-Long term insomnia
-Long term muscle soreness
-Lower Testosterone Levels
-Higher Cortisol Levels
An overtrained individual may only experience a handful of these symptoms, and another may experience all, or almost all of them. Some don’t even notice they are suffering from these symptoms and continue to overtrain, leading into a spiral of failed weightlifting sessions and depression. If you have been training intensely for a constant period of time there is the chance that you are/have overtrained, especially if you are a lifter who trains to failure consistently.
A few ways to prevent overtraining are managing your diet and workout routines/programs. Make sure you’re eating enough calories to sustain your training and recover properly and drinking enough water. If you cannot consume or are unsure if you consume the proper amount of vitamins and minerals through your diet, then you should start taking a multivitamin to take care of any deficiencies. If you’re not an advanced lifter then don’t train like one. Make sure your program/routine fits your level of ability in terms of recovery/intensity.