Overtraining – Is This a Thing?


We’ve heard it over and over; working out is good for you. It will give you a stronger heart, improve your mood and get you closer to that banging beach bod. It’s one of those things that as your become better at it, you want to do it more and more – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. That is, until you push yourself too hard that you actually do harm to your training regimen and worse, your body.

Before getting into signs of overtraining, it’s crucial to make the distinction between overtraining and exercise addiction. Exercise addiction is when your passion for fitness becomes so extreme, an unhealthy obsession is born. It’s where working out has become a top priority in life and nothing else seems to matter as much. According Psychophysiology of sports addictions exercise addicts show signs of withdrawal such as anxiety, restlessness, depression, guilt, tension, discomfort, loss of appetite, sleeplessness and headaches when they aren’t able to hit the gym as planned. It can turn into a serious mental game and quickly spiral out of control. Just like many other addictions, if you need it, there’s professional help out there.

Overtraining is physical. It’s repeatedly pushing your body unreasonably hard with less time than needed to recover. But the question is, how do you know when you’ve overdone it? In the fitness community, we’re constantly being told to try harder, dig deeper and run faster. At what point do you need to take a minute and hit up a restore class at CPY?

Let’s start with the basics. Physical signs of overtraining include decreased performance, chronic muscle soreness, elevated resting heart rate, increased injuries (often re-occurring injuries) and halted progress. Overtraining often occurs while working towards a goal – like a competition or a big race. According to RunnersConnect about 65 percent of elite endurance athletes will experience overtraining symptoms in their career. I know what you’re thinking, phew – I’m not an elite endurance athlete, I’m in the clear… well not so fast – around 20 percent of beginner and recreational runners experience symptoms of overtraining at some points in their lives. AND if you have a type A personality, you’re more likely to be at risk.

Obviously, staying fit and being strong is crucial to your health and performance. The important piece we all tend to forget is the recovery. Recovery is the easiest way to combat overtraining. Listen to your body, if you’re feeling tired and fatigued five minutes into your workout, it’s ok to take a rest day or substitute a weight training session for some yoga. Deep tissue massages, recovery boots and temperature contrast therapy (ice baths, cryotherapy) can help speed up recovery by releasing muscle tension and increasing blood flow throughout the body.

Working towards a goal is challenging, motivating and rewarding – especially when you start to notice results. It’s easy to get carried away in the process, so be sure to allow yourself time rest and recover.

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About Rachel Mitz

The self-diagnosed work-out-a-holic, Rachel Mitz can be found all around Chicago, staying fit when she isn't crunching numbers as a director of corporate finance for a commercial real estate company. Chicago area bred and University of Illinois alum, Rachel works hard and plays hard so her daily workouts are her chance to connect with her mind and body. Rachel keeps it exciting by creating up a lineup of both fun and challenging morning workouts from personal training sessions, to boot camps, to spin classes or runs along the lake front (she just completed her first marathon in October). For fun, you can find Rachel trying new restaurants, traveling, volunteering with her favorite middle schoolers at San Miguel or enjoying a glass of red wine and fro-yo.