Less is more – how to avoid overtraining

2 min read
Thursday, 8 June 2023

We’ve all felt the after-burn of a great workout. That strangely satisfying ache you get for a couple of days after your session when you reach up for something or bend down to tie your laces. It’s a reminder that you’ve worked hard and put in the effort.

Muscle soreness is a natural part of a progressive fitness regime, especially if you are starting out, but persistent aches and pains could be a sign of overtraining.

What is overtraining?

Everyone is different, and how our bodies respond to exercise is unique. A workout that feels intense to you and puts you in the upper heart rate zones (yellow and red zones) could see your gym buddy barely touch the green zone.

But regardless of your fitness level and whether you are doing cardio or strength training, you are at risk of overtraining if you don’t schedule enough rest and recovery time between your workouts. Similarly, if you don’t hydrate and refuel appropriately.

Not allowing your body to recover could be doing yourself more harm than good. Overtraining syndrome (OTS) has been documented in elite athletes who don’t adequately recover between workout sessions, impacting their mental and physical health.

Spotting the signs of overtraining

You know yourself best, so listen to your body. If your routine feels more difficult than usual, you’ve lost motivation, and you are generally feeling washed out, you probably need rest.

Knowing the symptoms of overtraining will help you avoid hitting it too hard in the gym too often. Muscle pain that lasts more than a few days is just the start. Other symptoms include fatigue, lack of energy, weakness, disturbed sleep and mood changes. Over time, excessive training can also lead to illness, injury and decreased exercise performance, so it really is a false economy.

How to avoid overtraining

Tracking your heart rate is an excellent way to ensure you are training safely and effectively. As you get fitter, your resting heart rate – the number of times your heart beats per minute – naturally lowers. A normal resting heart rate should be between 60 to 100 beats per minute.

The longer you work out with a heart rate tracker like Myzone, the more in tune you will be with your heart rate and how it responds to exercise. So, if you feel like you are exercising in the yellow zone ((80-89% of your maximal heart rate), but you can clearly see that you are only in the blue zone (60-69% of your maximal heart rate) you might want to reflect. Have you been pushing yourself too hard lately? The same applies if you find that it takes you longer than usual to recover your heart rate after some high-intensity exercise. These changes in your heart rate might be a sign that you are overtraining. Your body could be fatigued and in need of some R&R.

Rest up. You’ve earned it.

There’s nothing like the high you get from a great workout, but you don’t need to work at the highest intensities all of the time to feel the benefits.

Rest is essential after exercise to allow your body to repair and prevent overtraining. A good tip is to follow a high-intensity workout with a recovery session using your Myzone to ensure you stay mostly in the blue and early green zone.

Using your heart rate tracker to ensure you exercise in all the heart rate zones will increase the effectiveness of your training programme and prevent you from overtraining, which is as bad as not training at all.

In summary: 

  • Overtraining can occur without adequate rest, nutrition and hydration
  • It can have detrimental effects on your health short-term and long term
  • You can use your HR zones to understand if you’re currently overtraining, helping you to manage your training load & improve training effectiveness.
Describe your image