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  • Darren Baker

Overtraining & Under Recovery

Updated: Aug 22, 2023

Now generally in life the more we put in the more we get back, so in theory the more cardiovascular exercise we do the more fat we will lose – and surely if we currently push weights five times per week then eight times a week is going to be much better??

Well… NO; when it comes to cardio and resistance training too much can be detrimental and there is a point when over exerting can be counter productive.

If you are doing hours and hours of cardio, or spend 2 hours in the gym working on one body part you are most probably overtraining.

This can be reversed by stating you are not overtraining but are under recovering.

So how do you know if you are overtraining/under recovering?

Here are the signs –

Struggling or unable to complete training sessions. You will start to feel weaker, may be not hitting your normal rep range or weight. You are unable to complete your normal cardio routine or progress further in the routine. You keep turning up as usual but you are just getting weaker, more tired and feel lethargic.

You are struggling to lose weight, or you are even gaining weight even though you are training extremely hard.

Normally losing weight is a matter of ensuring you are burning more calories than you are consuming, but if the body is is out of balance your cortisol levels can rise, and testosterone can drop which can cause the breakdown of muscle and increase in insulin.

You feel in a state of chronic fatigue and even feeling a bit down or even depressed.You are struggling to sleep at night feeling restless and agitated. When you are overtraining or under recovering your sympathetic nervous system can stay elevated causing disturbed and broken sleep.

You are feeling more aches and pains than normal. If you are new to weight training you should expect to get some aches in the muscles at the end of your session and into the days following the session as this is normal. But if you have been training for a good period of time and you start to generally feel more aches than normal not just in the muscle but in the tendons and even feels like its in the bones, than its time to take a rest.

If you are feeling sick with cold like symptoms. Not resting the body can mess with your immune system and this could make you more susceptible to picking up a nasty little bug or generally just feeling run down. This can occur for other reasons such as mental stress or lack of sleep but either way it is your body trying to tell you it needs a rest to restore your immune system back to full health.

Feeling drained and irritable after a good training session. After what you would class as a good training session you should feel pleased about what you have just achieved and positive about the rewards gained from that session. But if you feel lethargic and irritable after the session you probably need a rest so you can start to embrace your training again.

If you do believe you may be overtraining the cure is very simple. Take a week off and allow your body time to recover, one week will not put your training back and you will not lose muscle mass, in fact you may come back feeling revitalised and stronger, keen to get stuck back in and transform your body.

Now not everybody needs to take a week off especially if they do not train intensely. If you attend the gym just going through the motions and not offering much intensity into your training, and you do not track your training, or strive to increase weight and volume then you will not require a weeks’ rest as, well, you’re just not training hard enough to require a rest.

But if you are utilising a training program with progressive overload and always giving your all in your training sessions then a rest week would be a good idea.

If you are one of my clients then I would suggest a rest week is important as my training program will certainly place additional stress on the body as it is programmed to speed the process of increasing muscle mass.

As an excellent alternative you can take a de-load week. This is when you reduce the load or volume you are lifting.

Just enter the gym and exercise or lift without stressing the body too much.

Reduce the load to about 50% of your 1 RM and just go through the motion. Try perfecting your form during the de-load week as you will not be tempted to keep increasing the weight to a point when form can deteriorate.

I believe it is more important to reduce the load than the volume, so just reduce the weight and hit your normal rep range.

A de-load week is also important for resting the central nervous system, ligaments, tendons and joints.

Also age has an affect on recovery as generally the older we are the longer it takes for the body to recover.

Do we overtrain or under rest?

Well I believe it is difficult to overtrain but under resting is more common. Either way taking 2 days rest per week is paramount and having a weeks’ rest every so often is a good idea.

How often? I suggest every 2-3 months a rest or de-load week would be beneficial to those dbpt machines or those of you that always tear it up in the gym.

Train hard & rest well!

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