Feeling sluggish and sore at the gym?
Have you hit a plateau in your weight loss/muscle gain program?
Or even worse, have your gains dropped off or fallen?
Do you spend more than 1 hour at the gym?
Are you the one who is always at the gym yet your body isn’t changing?
If you answered “yes” to any or all of the above, chances are that you are overtraining
What is overtraining? Basically overtraining occurs when you are doing too much work while not allowing enough time for recovery and/or likely suffering in the diet and nutrition department. Your ability to recover is what determines your growth and physical improvement so it is important to recognize why you hit a plateau and learn what to do about it. Many people get into this rut because they are stuck in a ‘more work means better results’ mode – it happens to most people at some point in time.
Another contributing factor to overtraining is that exercise causes the release of endorphins, our “feel good” hormone, and people can become addicted to that feeling and try to reproduce it daily.
In men this often occurs with weight training where we hit a roadblock and figure the solution must be to add more work. So we add exercises or sets to a body part thinking that we might ignite new muscle growth. In reality we beat and break down our micro fractured muscles further to the point where the only cure becomes less work or none at all.
For woman it is often a concern of calories and cardio as women are often more concerned with pure weight loss as opposed to focusing on muscle growth and strictly fat loss. While you might understand the need to create a caloric deficit, there comes a point where, in an effort to lose the most stubborn pounds, you simply cannot cut calories further so the light bulb goes on and the ‘more cardio’ mode kicks in. Wrong. Female menstruation can also be a contributing factor due to physical and psychological stress.
In both cases the solution is to do less work so that your body can recover, ensure you are eating a well-balanced diet, and lift less while taking a break from cardio. When I say “lift less” for me it is lifting the same amount of weight but for fewer sets per body part as I want to maintain my strength. I also recommend that above, beyond and before all of this, you take a break from training every 10 weeks. You can massage this schedule a little bit to work around holidays, vacations, etc. but every 10 weeks is a solid guideline. When you return to the gym you will either feel as strong as when you left, stronger thanks to complete muscle recovery, or slightly weaker – even if this is so you will be back to previous limits in no time.
So remember that sometimes less is more, one step back can equal two steps forward, and train intelligently. Recognize the symptoms of overtraining and be honest with yourself about whether you have fallen victim to it, because the solution is so simple.