As summer approaches, you probably notice an uptick in the number of targeted ads and social media posts revolving around exercise equipment, fitness classes, diet fads, and “beach body” motivationals. While getting in shape is a fantastic goal to have, obsessive or relentless training is actually very harmful—both physically and mentally. When someone exercises in excess (whether it be for a short or long period of time), this puts them at risk of suffering from overtraining syndrome, or OTS.
What is Overtraining?
Overtraining is often caused by working out too hard or too long without adequate recovery and down time. People who don’t properly fuel their body with a healthy diet based on their workout regimine and nutritional needs can also increase their chances of OTS. Symptoms of OTS are often overlooked by individuals who are hyper-focused on meeting their strength goals or ideal physique.That’s why it’s always important that you pay close attention to what your body is telling you about your workout routines.
Symptoms of Overtraining
Reduce or stop exercising for a few days and contact your physician or physical therapist immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Stress injuries like shin splints, hairline fractures, sprains, and strains
- Muscle pain or soreness that lasts for days without any improvement
- Injuries that don’t heal or that become recurring
- Mood swings characterized by irritability and anxiousness
- Feeling unmotivated, even when it comes to basic, daily routines
- Sudden changes in weight and appetite, including gaining weight
How to Avoid Overtraining
Even though OTS is a very real and potentially dangerous condition, it’s something that we can easily avoid. Whether you have an established workout routine or are planning a new one, be sure to consider these tips for keeping OTS at bay:
- If you notice your performance decreasing with certain exercises, make adjustments to temporarily reduce their intensity until your body can recover.
- Keep your body well hydrated before, during, and after each workout.
- Maintain a proper diet based on your fitness routines—for example, if you are weightlifting, make sure you are eating enough protein to nourish your muscles.
- Stick to and schedule an adequate number of rest days between your workouts.
- Rotate which muscle groups you isolate during each exercise session—for example, legs on one day followed by shoulders and back the next.