Too Much of a Good Thing: Overtraining

June 7, 2016

We’ve all heard the terms, “Everything in moderation,” and, “Life is about balance.” Well, the same is true of fitness.

We are thrilled with how hard you’ve been working to earn your MEPs and reach your fitness goals, but now we’re going to share how too much of a good thing (exercise) can actually be detrimental to our performance and health.

Enter the concept of overtraining. Overtraining is a condition in which training too hard and/or too often causes a decrease in exercise performance and an increase in injury or illness. We can overtrain with both aerobic/cardiorespiratory exercise and with resistance exercise. Since overtraining is a complex condition, in this post we’ll describe how we might overtrain, as well as symptoms and how to spot signs of overtraining using your MYZONE belt. We’ll explore ways to prevent overtraining in another post.

Ever heard about someone who made a New Year’s resolution to get fit, joined the gym in January, started working out six days a week at a high intensity, and then stopped coming to the gym because they sustained an injury or just got burnt out? This is a classic example of how overtraining happens.

Exercise is a stressor that disrupts our body’s homeostasis, or normal balance. Over time, our bodies adapt and we become more fit. But when we try to progress too quickly, our bodies don’t have time to adapt appropriately. We overtrain when the intensity and/or volume of our exercise is too high for our bodies to make healthy adaptations.

As a reminder:

Intensity = how hard we work (how fast we run, how much weight we lift, etc.)

Volume = how long and how frequently we work (exercise for 60-minute sessions three days per week, perform a certain amount of reps and sets)

It’s possible to overtrain a certain muscle group or to overtrain our entire body. Either way, overtraining leaves us more susceptible to injury. When we are overtrained, the best solution is usually rest.

Overtraining is very individual – a training program that perfectly progresses one person may be too much for another. That’s why it’s vital that we are aware of the signs and symptoms of overtraining.

heart rate fitness tracking

According to the National Strength and Conditioning Association (2012), here are some signs of aerobic overtraining and resistance overtraining:

Aerobic/Cardiorespiratory Overtraining Symptoms:

Decreased aerobic performance

Earlier onset of fatigue

General malaise (not feeling so hot)

Loss of interest or enthusiasm for training

Disturbed psychological mood states (increased depression, anxiety, fatigue, or decreased vigor)

Increased muscle soreness

Resistance Overtraining Symptoms:

A plateau followed by a decrease in strength gains

Disturbed sleep

Decrease in lean body mass (when not dieting)

Decreased appetite

Persistent cold or flu-like symptoms

Loss of interest in training

Mood changes

Excessive muscle soreness

heart rate fitness tracking

So how can we use our MYZONE’s heart rate fitness tracking to detect signs of aerobic/cardiorespiratory overtraining? Here are a few things to look out for if you’re concerned that you may be overtraining:

Your rate of perceived exertion (RPE) doesn’t reflect the heart rate zone you’re in. Maybe you feel like you’re at an 8 out of 10, but your MYZONE monitor says you’re in the blue zone (60-69% of your maximal heart rate).

You are not able to recover your heart rate after a period of higher intensity work as quickly as usual. Normally able to recovery down to the blue zone within a minute after a sprint? With overtraining, your heart rate might linger in the higher zones for a bit longer.

In general, you are not able to control your heart rate response to exercise as much as you typically can. For example, your heart rate might jump up much faster than usual or you might have a hard time maintaining a consistent heart rate at a constant workload.

If you feel that you might be overtraining, we recommend that you take additional rest days and/or decrease the intensity of your workouts. Look back at your MYZONE Activity Calendar and see how many days in a row you have been active and at what average intensity.  If you have not taken a break in a while and/or have been working at mostly high intensities, you may need more rest.  You might also consult with a healthcare professional to ensure that you are healthy to continue exercising.

Stay tuned for another post about steps to prevent overtraining. For now, check out our previous blogs for recommendations on frequency, intensity, and duration of exercise.  We want to help you exercise safely and effectively – and that means maintaining balance within your training program!

Tell us how your training is going. When you post to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, be sure to use the hashtags #MYZONE, #myzonemoves, and #effortrewarded.

For more tips on how to effectively use your MYZONE heart rate monitor, follow us during Fitness Fridays on Periscope – 8 am PST, 11 am EST.

Keep moving forward!

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