It is a common belief that hard work equals results. It’s true, in many ways, but when it comes to exercise this attitude fails to appreciate the intelligence of the human body and the impact on physical, social and mental health.
For starters, overtraining can actual mean your body is able to train less in total. In an overtrained state, testosterone is reduced resulting in an array of abnormalities including a limited ability to perform in exercise including strength, power, speed, and endurance types, reduced ability to build muscle and a lower libido and ability to ‘perform’ in the bedroom.
Reduced sexual activity is easy to blame on being too tired or too busy but have you ever thought that this matches up with your training regime? Think again.
Irritability, mood changes, lack of concentration, low motivation, depression, reduced appetite, fatigue, slow regeneration of wounds, prolonged pain after training sessions, insomnia, elevated heart rate, reduced max heart rate and an increase in blood pressure... all symptoms of over training syndrome.
Frustratingly for many, an increase in fat storage often occurs due to the drop in testosterone coupled with a rise in cortisol (stress hormone). This may lead to more training and ‘dieting’.
So why don’t we just rest?
Exercise is known to have endless benefits to health and the endorphin high post-workout is what keeps many coming back. Exercise can be very addictive, for multiple reasons, so the thought of a rest day can cause extreme anxiety for some.
This addiction not only worsens physical and psychological symptoms associated with over training, but greatly impacts ones social health. Needing to fit in training comes a priority, so late nights out or weekends away without access to training facilities may likely be avoided.
One may have immense fear that missing just one workout will have great impacts, such as gaining fat or losing muscle. Without the endorphin hit one will also feel flat, moody, and may also have anxiety and depression like symptoms.
However we only need to look to the top for evidence of the benefits of solid rest. Elite athletes, who many of us look up to for their sporting ability and physiques, have an off season, where most recreation athletes or devoted gym goers train all year round. They also have specially designed training programs where stress is closely monitored as well as an array of techniques and a team dedicated to recovery. This may include a physio, masseuse and also a dietitian to ensure their nutritional intake is maximised and meeting their training needs.
How to know if you need a rest day
There is no exact amount that can be defined as over training as there are many other variables to consider such as type of training, training history, nutrition and other lifestyle stress. Often it is illness or an injury that pulls over-trainers out of the spell and into a state of forced rest. If you relate to this article, don’t wait to learn the hard way, try pulling your training back by including an additional rest day and see how your mind, body and performance responds. Seeking professional advice from an exercise physiologist or sports physician, sports psychologist and sports dietician may also be valuable in finding a balance that is right for you.