Overtraining – How Much Is Too Much

As you go about your workout routine, one thing that you need to pay special attention to is overtraining.  Overtraining is a very real and serious problem and something that many people do encounter as they go about their routine if they aren’t careful.

So what is overtraining and how much exercise is too much?

Let’s have a look at the main things that you need to keep in mind at all times.

What Is Overtraining

The very first thing that you need to understand is what overtraining is.  Overtraining is a situation where you’re placing more stress on the body than what it is comfortably able to tolerate, thus causing it to not be able to recover in time before your next workout session.

If you go into the gym without being in a fully recovered state, you’re just going to break the muscle down further and further and eventually this can lead to you becoming weaker and losing lean muscle tissue.

Overtraining then is a miss-match between total rest time and total work time in your overall workout routine.

Keep in mind that various different elements will also influence just how much rest you need in order to recover properly between sessions.  The more intense the workout you’re doing is, the more rest you will recover until you perform a second session.

Likewise, the more volume you perform in each session, that is the total number of sets and reps and exercises, the more recovery time you’ll need as well.

Furthermore, those who are using reduced carb or calorie diet plans will also be at a disadvantage as far as overall recovery goes, so that’s something to keep in mind also.

If you’re not eating as much as you normally would or as much as your body would like you to be eating, this means you won’t have the fuel availability to make the recovery that you desire.

How Much Exercise Until You’re Overtrained

So this leads us to the question that everyone wants to know the answer to – how much training is too much before overtraining sets in?

The problem here is that there is no definite answer.  This is going to be highly individual from person to person. One individual may be able to perform four weight lifting workouts, two cardio sessions, and still participate in some sports on top of that without a problem. While another may find that after three sessions of weight lifting, they’re done – if they add any more exercise over and above this, they’ll be struggling to stay recovered.

Various factors can influence just how much exercise your body can take while achieving full recovery between each session.

The first factor is your stress level.  Those who are under a great deal of stress, either physical or emotional will have a lower overall rate of recovery.

Likewise, those who aren’t sleeping enough at night might also find that they have a lower overall level of recovery as well.  Sleep is when the body goes into deep recovery mode, so if you aren’t giving yourself the sleep you need, it’s definitely going to influence how well you recover on a day to day basis.

Age is yet another factor that can influence recovery and cause you to move into overtraining if you aren’t careful.  Generally speaking, the older you are, the more likely you are to have problems with recovery and the more time you’ll need between each workout you do.

While there are some exceptions to this rule, for the most part, younger individuals will recover faster than older individuals.

If you’re careful to watch for the signs of overtraining however, you can spot it in its initial stages and then take steps to help put a stop to it before it stops you.

Some of the top signs of overtraining to watch for is a loss in motivation to keep up with your training routine, a low level of mental desire to partake in activities that you formerly enjoyed, a loss of libido, a decrease or increase in body weight without intension, loss of appetite, sleeping more, and very sore and achy muscles that don’t seem to go away.

If you notice any of these occurring, it’s best to immediately sit-up and take action.

Recovering From Overtraining

So what action should you take if you’re on the verge of overtraining?

The first thing that you’ll want to do is rest.  Complete time off is the fastest and most effective way to come back from overtraining, so it’s going to be a must.  Don’t think that you can just reduce your workload and see just as great of results.  You can’t and you won’t.

Time off is the only way that you’ll see results.  If you try and get around this with lighter workouts, all you’ll be doing is digging yourself deeper into a whole.

The second thing that you must make sure you’re doing is eating well.  Now is not the time to be using a lower calorie diet plan.  If you want to stop overtraining, you need to provide sufficient calories and more importantly, sufficient carbs to your day.

Miss out on either of these and you’ll be slowing your recovery down.  Carbs are especially essential as this is what will help to restore muscle glycogen levels, which do typically run low in this situation.

Finally, do your best to keep all other stressors in your life down as well.  Work stress, relationship stress, and financial stress will all take its toll on you and move you deeper in the state of being overtrained.

For optimal success, you’ll want to reduce all of these stressors as best as you possibly can.

So there you have a brief overview of how much exercise is too much as it relates to overtraining. If you prepare your workout program properly to ensure sufficient rest is being given and then make sure to practice good recovery strategies, you can go a long way to preventing this from occurring in the first place.

[stextbox id=”grey” caption=”About the Author”]Shannon Clark holds a degree in Exercise Science from the University of Alberta, where she specialized in Sports Performance and Psychology.  In addition to her degree, she is an AFLCA certified personal trainer and has been working in the field for over 8 years now.[/stextbox]

 

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