Why Family and Friends Should Be Alert to the Symptoms of Overtraining

An Army reservist goes through a high-intensity workout.
U.S. Army Reserve Sgt. Christopher Osburn, a Mass Communication Specialist assigned to the 300th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment in Fort Gillem, Georgia, takes a break during a high-intensity training exercise at a local gym, Saturday July 20, 2019. (Spc. Khylee Woodford/U.S. Army Reserve photo)

For years, I have written about and discussed the fine line between training for Special Ops programs and over​​training. Until recently, I realized I forgot one very important piece of information:

Tell others around you the symptoms of overtraining.

You should do this because you typically will not notice them until it is too late. Even though over-​training is actually hard to do just by training, it is easy to see symptoms pop up occasionally when your recovery balance is off. Not enough sleep, not eating or hydrating well, and too many crazy workouts in a week are just the things to push any training program into the over-​​reaching and over​​training zone.

Tell your family and friends to let you know if you exhibit the following signs despite working out normally:

  • Personality changes: Grumpiness, irritability, moodiness, depression, etc.
  • Getting sick or injured more often than normal
  • Decreased immune function
  • Lack of motivation
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Loss of sexual drive
  • Muscle or​ joint soreness: Post-workout soreness lasting longer than 24 hours, especially 48- to 72+-hour soreness.

There are many more symptoms, and the signs to slow down before you are actually over​training appear from time to time. This does not mean that you need to take a week off and go on vacation. But it does mean you should take a day off, go for an easy walk after a healthy dinner, stretch and get a good night's sleep. Usually, this is all you need to get back on track. In some cases, you may need more easy days, especially if you are getting sick or​ injured often.

I know I am over​​training when my hips tighten up and I can't do a deep squat as in the Functional Movement Screening (FMS) without pain, discomfort and lack of balance. This typically happens during higher mileage in run and​ ruck season. So I know to take a one- or two-day break from intense workouts, stretch more, eat better, sleep more and hydrate.

These symptoms individually do not mean you are over​​training, but if you have several of these symptoms for several days or weeks in a row, you might be overtraining. Often, having someone who cares about you and knows about some of these symptoms makes it easier for them to identify them, especially if you are being grumpy with your spouse or other loved ones.

And yes, my wife gave me the idea for the article.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you’re looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to stew@stewsmith.com.

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