Why Those Around You Should Know the Symptoms of Overtraining

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An airman prepares to do a barbell shoulder press.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Patricia West, 52nd Command Post senior emergency actions controller, prepares to do a shoulder press at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, Jan. 16, 2019. (Airman 1st Class Jovante Johnson/U.S. Air Force photo)

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

Tell others around you the symptoms of overtraining.

Because you typically will not notice it until it is too late. Even though, over​training is actually hard to do by just 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/over​​training zone if not attended to.

For your family and friends who you are near often, let them know that you are working out as normal, but if you exhibit the following signs to let you know:

  • Personality changes (grumpiness, irritability, moodiness, depression, etc.)
  • Getting sick or injured more often than normal (decreases immune function)
  • Lack of motivation
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Loss of sexual drive
  • Muscle or joint soreness: Longer than 24-hour, post-workout soreness. This is 48- to 72+-hour soreness.

There are many more symptoms, and the signs to slow down before you actually are over​​training appear from time to time. This does not mean you need to take a week off and go on vacation. But it does mean to 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 cannot 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 runs/rucks season. So I know to take a one- or two-day break from intense workouts, stretch more, eat better, sleep more and hydrate.

Now individually, these 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 know what some of these symptoms are helps.

PS: 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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