Confession: I don't take enough rest days. I'll have an amazing workout, blink, and then all of a sudden it's 23 days later and I can't remember the last time I laid on the couch and relaxed all day. I know I'm not the only one out there who gets caught up in life and can't remember what day it is or whether or not I left the curling iron on, but when it comes to physical activity I can REALLY lose sight of just how much stress I can put on my body in a relatively short period of time.
My resolution to all of this? Learn. How. To. Chill. The. Heck. Out. For. Pete's. Sake. Spoiler alert: this is the trainer becoming her own trainee. Am I hosting my own overtraining anonymous meeting right now? Maybe. Maybe not. You don't know. My dog does.
Do I believe in overtraining? 100%. Have I been overtrained before? 100%. How did I know? If you think you may be in the same boat, how would you know whether you're feeling low due to overtraining versus your average "I feel bloated and mreh" workout? How would you discern between the two?
Before we break this down into easy peasy, let's define what it means to be overtrained. Simply put, overtraining means giving your body more work than it can handle. There are lots of fancy ways to measure this, including metabolic testing and blood analysis at the la-bore-a-tory my dear Watson, but all you really need to do in order to determine whether you may be pushing your engine to the brink is to listen to your noggin. And let's get one thing straight - one person's "overtraining" state may look completely different than the next person's, depending on what his/her "base" fitness levels are to begin with. You do not have to run 32 miles a day in order to be overtrained. For some, one hour per day of working out is simply too much (depending on the intensity of the workout). Recovery rates are different. Genetics are different. Point is, don't compare yourself to one another. It just doesn't work.
Chronic overtraining on top of fatigue does two major things to your body that will totally derail the awesome athletic goals you set for yourself:
1) It raises cortisol levels significantly. Cortisol is a hormone that is necessary for survival, but is not meant to be circulating at high levels chronically. Having elevated levels of cortisol for an extended period of time actually promotes fat accumulation, decreases immunity, and also leads to muscle breakdown. No dice when you're trying to bust your butt in the gym everyday.
2) It increases risk of injury. If you are tired and sluggish during your workouts, guess what goes down the toilet? Your exercise form and technique. Guess what keeps your joints, bones, tendons, ligaments, and muscles safe during workouts? Your exercise form and technique.
Okay, great. Good to know. Can we bullet point this, plz? Sure thing, jellybean. Here are 10 classic symptoms of being overtrained:
Increased injury or persistent pain (without having had any previous injuries)
Elevated resting heart rate (is it harder than usual to walk up a flight of stairs?)
Persistent muscle fatigue (feeling like your limbs are made of lead)
Crummy sleeping patterns
Muscle soreness lasting greater than 72 hours?
If you're hitting the gym hard, you have any of those symptoms, and you can't remember the last time you took a day off, take a day off...or two....or three. However much time you need in order to feel like yourself again, take it. Your body will thank you for it by performing better for you. And no, losing those workouts won't cost you in the long run in terms of progress. What will cost you is pushing through pain and fatigue. Use the time off to focus on nutrition instead. Or catching up on "This is Us" OR "The Spring Baking Championship" on Food Network.
A Jolly Body working on getting Jollier. Or Jolly-er. Don't care. Rest days for me mean resting my brain as well, which means no grammar policing myself tonight.