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Overtraining, also known as burnout or staleness, means that one’s body has been trained too hard, often to the point that regular rest is no longer sufficient for recovery. The body has effectively reduced its capability to repair itself during your normal rest periods.
Overtraining is one of the most common mistakes you can make to sabotage your progress while bodybuilding. It is also one of the biggest reasons why some of the 'hardcore' people at your gym don’t see the gains that they want. Although it is not rocket science, everyone knows that in order to get results you’ve got to put in a lot of hard work both mentally and physically. In fact, you will probably have to work harder than you’ve ever worked in your entire life to lose the fat or gain the muscle that you’ve always wanted. And there is no difference in the amount of effort you have to put in whether you are an elite athlete or just an average Joe. Hard work and discipline is definitely where it’s at.
However, even though training hard does get you pumped up and feeling great, your body is in fact being broken down and is becoming weaker. This is the biggest mistake that most beginners and even seasoned veterans make. As they try to capture the same feeling of being ‘pumped up’ day after day they don't realize that they are doing more harm than good. It is not the ‘lifting till you drop’ that builds the muscle and makes you stronger, it is the rest or down time between workouts that builds muscle and makes you stronger. It is during the recovery period that your body will re-generate to greater levels to compensate for the amount of work that you have put into it. The end result is your body breaking through a higher level of strength and performance.
Taking sufficient rest is probably the most understated word in all of bodybuilding. Whether it is because of padding one’s ego, ignorance, or just lack of knowledge, people just do not give their bodies enough time to recuperate and regenerate. This is exactly why most of the people you see in your gym stay the way they are with little or no gain even though they work hard. The bottom line, if rest is not included in your training program then your body cannot recover, which means your body will hit a plateau and stop growing. A hindered growth process is the product of both a poor performance at the gym, and a lack of sufficient down time outside the gym. They go hand in hand.
Just like any illnesses or sickness out there, overtraining also come with its own set of symptoms that will hopefully tip you off and give you a head start in recognizing overtraining problem in order to prevent it.
Fatigue – it is the most common symptom of overtraining, and it can also come just from about anymore; stress and worry either from the home or from work. It is synonymous with exhaustion and it’s you body’s way of telling you that it’s tired and it needs a long rest to recover and that it’s energy stores have been depleted by overtraining and other outside forces.
Mood swings – when the body is tired the mind is also affected that leads to the person being easily irritated.
Prone to Sickness – if the body is tired and not at a 100%, colds and other viruses can easily attack the body making the person more prone to sickness than usual.
Prolonged muscle soreness and joint pains – this is usually a good indication that the body is not getting enough rest, fluids and nutrition. Muscle soreness usually last about 2-3 days (this is not to say that you should not hit the gym in those 2-3 days – you can work out other body parts during this time) but if muscle soreness persists past this point you should consider taking a day off or two from the gym and adjusting your approach.
Altered sleeping patterns – when the body is tired and out of balance regular sleeping patterns are disturbed.
Insatiable thirst and dehydration – your body needs water, lots of water. When over training it may seem impossible to get enough at times.
Prone to Injuries – if your body is not fully recovered and not at its strongest it is very easy do some damage by pulling a muscle or tearing ligaments. These kinds of injuries can put you out of commission (and the gym) for weeks or months, so it is definitely not worth the risk.
No strength or size gain – if the other symptoms still don’t convince you that you are overtraining then this should. If you haven’t seen any gain in your physique or strength lately then that is a clear sign that your body needs some time off to rejuvenate itself.
Overtraining should not be taken lightly for these symptoms are not the extent of damage that a person can inflict on an overtrained body. These symptoms can lead to serious illness such as depression and can also have an effect on your eating patterns as well as cause insomnia.
How do you prevent overtraining? Simple, first, listen to your body, take notice of all the signs that it is giving you. Remember, if something is painful that usually means something is wrong. There is no magic pill, drink or shake that can cure an overtrained body. Rest, and lots of it, is the only treatment. The longer the body has suffered from overtraining the longer the rest required. If you feel that your body is overtrained then take a week off, continue eating a healthy diet, then return with a less intense program and slowly ease your way back into a more sensible routine. Keeping in mind that this time you will take more time to rest your body.
Otherwise, overtraining will re-occur. The rule of thumb is that it is better to be undertrained than overtrained. Second, enjoy doing you exercise program. Do not let working out take over your enire life. When your having fun you’ll be more consistent with your workouts, you’ll be more in-tune with your body and you’ll see results. Too often, far too many people are in a hurry to get in shape and see results. We all know that is not the best way to proceed.
The prevailing wisdom is DO NO BE AFRAID TO TAKE SOME REST and give your body a chance to heal and recover. Eat well and workout sensibly. Trust me, your body will thank you and reward you for it!
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