Overtraining used to be a subject everyone talked about. There were wild accusations saying that certain lifts caused overtraining, that doing more than an hour's worth of work in the gym is overtraining, and using it as an excuse to not put in the hard work.
While getting to an overtrained state sucks due to making you feel lethargic, weak, and possibly getting sick, it takes a lot more to get to an overtrained state than most people understand.
Related - Ambrosia Overtraining Solution
Just because you are tired and don't want to go to the gym because you are lazy, it doesn't mean you are overtraining.
Symptoms of Overtraining
- Decreased strength
- Becoming ill
- Thirst or dehydration
- Troubles sleeping
- Elevated pulse or blood pressure
- Inability to concentrate, sleep, or eat
- Depression, confusion, irritability, stiff and tight muscles
Most of these symptoms are regular, there are days you feel tired, you can't sleep, and you don't want to eat... But that doesn't mean you are overtrained. Everyone has an off day; when you start consistently feeling these symptoms along with a drop in performance in the gym for longer than two weeks, that's when you should worry.
Before you stop putting in the hard work, here are 10 ways to prevent overtraining.
Ways to Prevent Overtraining
#1 - Get More Rest
Lack of recovery is the main reason for becoming overtrained. We all can go beast mode in the gym and work life, but when it comes to relaxing and getting rest, we just skip over that.
There never seems to be enough hours in a day, but there is... You're just wasting them.
Seriously though, go all-out in the gym and make sure to get as much restful sleep and recovery as you can.
#2 -Quit Testing Your 1 Rep Max
We've all done this, but we need to stop.
When we go to the gym we want to build strength, right? Getting stronger and bigger is the name of the game.
Testing your one rep max is not building strength. You are putting your nervous system through hell and it is causing you to progress slower.
Keep your ego at the front desk and build strength.
I would only suggest testing your max for a lift once or twice per year. Anything more and you're simply spinning your wheels.
#3 -Eat More
Remember how I said muscles were built in the kitchen? It's true.
Strength and muscle are built with food. Food is anabolic, anabolic is life.
If you eat bad foods that have no nutritional value, how do you expect to get stronger? Sure, during my first powerlifting meet I managed to eat 5000 calories a day. I got bloated and my strength skyrocketed.
While it's bad on your waistline to do that, food can truly make or break your gains.
Invest in whole foods and eat them like there's no tomorrow. Eating a huge Tupperware bowl of chicken, rice, and veggies will go a lot further performance wise than a greasy cheeseburger.
#4 -Lower Your Stress
Stress puts a strain on your nervous system. It ruins your health, and can eventually kill you.
Taking time out of your day to de-stress is extremely important to your health and progression in the gym. Meditation, relaxing and listening to music, and taking naps are a few ways you can de-stress.
Find what works best for you and do it.
#5 -Practice Balance
If all you do is obsess about training (who doesn't) you will eventually burn out and decide that it's not for you.
You get used to jumping five pounds heavier each week on an exercise and you stall out one week. You get mad, you are over putting in hard work, and it's time to quit.. It happens to all of us.
Finding balance and enjoying other hobbies alongside of lifting will help reduce your stress levels and increase enjoyment in your life.
#6 -Vary Your Training
If you've been in a rut for a while, try changing up your training. Please note, I'm not saying to program hop and spend time chasing the "shiny new training methods."
If you feel like you are getting burned out, take off a few days from the gym and enjoy life.
Come back and have fun in the gym and simply get some exercise in. In a week or two, you'll be back to wanting to smash the weights and you'll wonder why you didn't do this earlier.
#7 -Train Less
Training seven days a week and putting everything into each workout is too much work on your body. Review your training routine and look for ways to turn training every day into 3 to 4 days of good training.
Allowing your body to get more recovery time between sessions will help rebuild your nervous system and get you on the gains train in no time.
#8 -Avoid the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Drugs
While I'm not against the occasional stiff cocktail or having fun, you need to keep as many toxins out of your body as possible.
Every time you drink or enjoy some recreational drugs, your body has to metabolize, filter, and get rid of these toxins. That is stealing energy that your body could be using to build muscle and recover.
All I am saying is choose wisely while enjoying life.
#9 -Learn to Listen to Your Body
If you've ever had the aches and pains from lifting, you know that they aren't injuries. Sometimes you tweak your back on a deadlift or your knee hurts from doing squats... That's normal.
Learning to listen to your body will allow you to push yourself to the limit without going too far. You'll learn what foods work best for your body, how manipulating macros can help your body composition, and what training protocols work best for you.
#10 -Purposely Overtrain
How do you avoid overtraining by overtraining? You find out what your body feels like overtrained.
Going along with learning to listen to your body, you will find out exactly how your body responds and feels during an overtrained state.
It sucks, it's a complete drain on your life, and you will finally see how hard you can push yourself before you snap.
Wrapping It Up
Overtraining sucks, it is painful, you can get injured, and it takes a toll on your body. Learning to listen to your body will help you tremendously.
Chasing your fitness goals will take a lot of time and effort; this is a marathon, not a sprint.