If you have any form of experience working out, regardless of the specific exercises you perform, it’s likely that you have heard of the term ‘overtraining’.
In fact, there are times that you yourself have probably asked the question “am I overtraining?”. You feel excessively sore after your workouts, you feel mentally drained, you’re not progressing at the pace you expected – this is despite the fact that you’re training harder than everyone else in the gym and seemingly do all the right things.
The good news is that it is very unlikely that you are overtraining. Overtraining is actually quite rare, especially outside of the elite-level athlete community. The chances are that you are simply overtaxing your body and not getting sufficient rest and/or nutrition.
What is overtraining
The accepted sport-science definition of overtraining is: “a physiological state caused by an excess accumulation of physiological, psychological, emotional, environmental and chemical stress that leads to a sustained decrease in physical and mental performance, that requires a relatively long period of recovery”.
The important point to pick up from that definition is that overtraining is a physiological and mental state of being similar to depression or illness, it is not an action i.e. working out too much. Overtraining is not caused by simply exercising everyday. It is an accumulation of multiple stresses combined – it is excessively training your body, poor nutrition, poor rest, excessive mental stresses such as financial troubles, relationship difficulties etc. all combining to assault your being.
Overtraining will not lead to a few disappointing workouts during the week, but will instead lead to a sustained decrease in your performance over a long period of time which will require weeks, if not months of targeted recovery to get over.
This is not to say that performing multiple sets of squats at maximum weight everyday is going to be a good idea, because it is not, it will affect your progression in a negative way (also increasing your chance of injury), but it is not overtraining.
OK, so you haven’t been overtraining, but still..
Now that you can more clearly state what overtraining is, and isn’t, you can better determine what is causing your poor workouts and/or lack of motivation.
Regarding your workout plan, the first step is to look at each of the big three factors affecting your progression – your workout, your nutrition, your recovery/rest.
Remember, you are not building muscle or gaining in strength during your actual workout despite what all the fashionable motivational quotes may lead you to believe – “pain is just weakness leaving the body” and so forth. When you lift weights, you are actually causing micro-tears to occur within the muscle fibre. Without going in to too much detail, the process of gaining size and strength is when these micro-tears heal. This healing takes place during your recovery periods, meaning without sufficient sleep, your workouts are for nothing. In addition to sleep, your body needs the correct building blocks in sufficient quantity to repair the muscle i.e. your proteins, healthy fats and carbohydrates.
Ensure that you giving each of these stages the attention they deserve before you begin to label yourself as overtrained.
*The views and/or opinions expressed in the blogs are not necessarily those of Training Nation, but of the author