Overtraining is something that most athletes are likely to encounter at some point in their life. It can be tough to spot, but it's important to address. We investigate the causes, the signs, and how to solve it.
Causes of Overtraining
Overtraining is exactly what it says on the tin: when you over-train your body so that it can't recover properly. If you are training particularly hard for an event and limiting your calorie intake to try and get lean or lose weight, there is a high risk of developing the symptoms of overtraining. It takes quite a lot to get to this point, so it is more common in long-distance runners who are running hundreds of miles a week or bodybuilders who are lifting weights every day while trying to drop body fat than your average gym-goer. If you are overtraining you will be deficient in many of the vital vitamins and minerals the body needs to function properly and you will notice the signs but perhaps not realise they are due to overtraining as these symptoms can also be caused by many other factors.
Signs of Overtraining
Persistent muscle soreness
If you are feeling sore and achy for longer periods than normal this could be due to overtraining. Your muscles need time to recover properly and with the right nutrition.
Elevated resting heart rate
Keeping an eye on your resting heart rate is a great way to check that you're not overtraining. If your resting heart rate is elevated for more than 3 days, you could be overtraining. Most smart watches and fitness trackers will track your heart rate all day so it is easier than ever to keep it in check.
Increased susceptibility to infections
Overtraining will cause your immune system to become weaker so you will notice that you'll be suffering from colds more often and other low-level immune conditions. If you feel like you are always getting ill, it could be a sign of overtraining.
In the same way, you could also notice that you're suffering from injuries more often than usual as well. They could be little things like pulling a muscle or developing cramp every time you train, but these are all signs of overtraining.
Insomnia, or lack of sleep, is something that can be caused by a number of health issues. However, if you are also developing the other symptoms of overtraining, this one will be easy to spot.
Take a break
This is the most obvious solution but it's also the most important. It can be hard to allow yourself enough rest days, especially when training for an event, but it's so important to listen to your body and allow it to recover properly when you are training hard. Don't train muscles when they are already aching and don't push through injuries.
Reduce the volume
If you usually do 5 sets of an exercise, drop it to 2 or 3. If you usually lift 80% of your max, reduce it to 50-60% until you are feeling better. Reduce your mileage if you are a runner or triathlete. Ease yourself back into training full pelt when you are ready.
Increase calorie intake
If you are trying to lose weight or strip body fat, it may be tempting to restrict your calorie intake too much. However, a restrictive diet will mean you lose out on vital vitamins and minerals and this will lead to the symptoms of overtraining.
Listen to your body!There is nothing more important than being healthy and well. No race or competition should come before your health. Listen to your body and take it easy, you will see better results if you work together with your body rather than against it.
Part of our wedding workout guide.
Create slender thighs for your garter to slip over. Wedding workout four ups the ante, we’re working on legs - your biggest muscle group. Why do we work the biggest muscle group? Bigger muscles mean more energy is needed to use them and what does that equal? More calories burned. Warning - What I wouldn’t do is train legs in the last few days before your big day, not unless you fancy tumbling down the aisle like a newborn calf.
Before we start:
Before we get ahead of ourselves, there is an important rule one must abide by when completing this workout.
Let me hear you say it ladies:
“Thou shalt not wear see through leggings”
When you're squatting, lunging and with this workout, jumping all over the place, you need to be able to trust that your leggings are protecting your dignity and see through leggings could see you making your big debut long before your wedding night. Sundried Ruinette tights are not only comfortable, they offer complete coverage of your behind through a full range of motion. They also have a double fastening waist secured with both a flat elastic band and a drawstring, for that personalised fit you can guarantee will go no where, so you can squat down low without your gym tights following suit. Now we’ve got that one cleared up, it’s time to get going.
Jog on the spot: 3 minutes, this is a light jog to start elevating your heart rate.
Pelvis and hip openers
This workout requires a lot from your hips and pelvis, so it’s important you warm up effectively. To wake up your hips and pelvis we start by bending one leg to bring your knee up in front of your chest and then circle your knee out away from your body, opening up your hip flexors. Repeat this 10 times per each leg.
This time we’re going for deep squats, taking our legs gently through the full range of motion. Start with your feet just outside of shoulder width and point your toes out. Squat down as low as you can, your bum should be hovered over the floor, with your thighs and calves pressing. Complete 10-20 deep squats to give your legs a preview of what’s to come.
Lunge with Torso Rotations
The final warm up exercise is a lunge with torso rotations. With each lunge forward, twist your body towards the outside of your hips. Complete 10 per side.
Legs workout - AMRAP
For this workout we suggest you go for 30 minutes - AMRAP - as many rounds as possible, however if you’re a wedding warrior, please feel free to bump up the time!
Squat jump with floor touch
Start by standing with your feet together and jump both legs into a squat simultaneously, as you do, touch a hand to the floor before jumping back to the start position. Complete 20.
Jumping alternating lunges
Jump into a lunge sinking down until your front thigh is parallel to the floor. Explode up and switch legs, so you land in a lunge on the alternate side. Same deal, 20 reps, but we will let you off with 10 per side.
Facing forward lift your knee up and extend the lower leg to snap into a front kick, with your toes facing up, leading with the heel. No wussy kicks, imagine you’re kicking someone away from you, making sure to alternate between legs each time. 20 reps, 10 kicks per leg.
Try this one standing for an extra balance challenge and calorie burn. Bend your supporting leg to provide a bit of extra stability and then lift the other leg off the ground. Kick backwards leading with your heel. You should feel this one in your glutes (aka bum) if you’re not, have a check of your form! 10 kicks per leg.
It’s time for a cardio interval. For 30 seconds go flat out as fast as you can running up and down your stairs, if you live in a bungalow and can’t find a step, high knees will serve the same purpose, just keep the intensity high and get that heart rate rocketing!
For travelling squats, every step you take becomes a squat. Squat and step ladies, squat and step. 20 steps, 20 squats.
Grab a dumbbell in both hands, the heavier the better, with a minimum of 5 kg. Sink into a squat and swing the dumbbell through your legs and then up to in front of your face with your arms extended. As the dumbbell reaches in front of your face you should thrust your hips forwards, before returning to your squat position as the dumbbell passes through your legs.
Hip thrusters with pulses
Lay on your back and raise your hips up to the ceiling, lifting your bum off the floor. With your feet on the ground. Return your bum down until it hovers just above the floor before thrusting upwards again. Complete 20 of these full reps, followed by 20 small hip pulses at the top of the movement.
Those are all your exercises, but it’s not over yet! Whizz back to the start and carry on, remember it's a war against the clock so keep going until your time’s up.
Cool down Yoga
Once your 30 minutes are up, however exhausted you are don’t skip the cool down, it’s part of your recovery. Yoga poses can be a great way of relieving tired muscles and these stretches will help prevent stiffness post workout, although you should expect to ache when you’ve worked that hard.
Recline hero pose
The recline hero pose provides a deep stretch to the thighs, hip flexors and ankles and is an easy move to master - once you get the hang of it. Start by kneeling on the floor with your legs pressed together and feet very slightly wider than your hips. Keeping the tops of your feet flat on the floor with your toes facing towards you. Exhale and sit back in between your feet, without changing their position. From here you can then place your hands on the floor behind you and lean your weight backwards. Gradually lean back and shift your weight from your hands, down to your elbows and then lay yourself back against the floor completely opening your hip flexors and resting your arms by your side. Continue to the next pose by supporting yourself back up onto your elbows and then hands.
Sit down and bend your legs so that your feet are lined up touching. Now grab your feet and bring them as close to your body as possible. Now push your knees and thighs down as close to the ground as possible, gently lift and lower your knees (like butterfly wings) and then repeat, pushing your thighs to the ground. Exhale and bring your torso to the floor, inhale when you’re ready to return your chest slowly back up.
Wide angle seated forward bend
Staying in your seated position, now open your legs as widely as possible keeping your toes pointing towards the ceiling. Exhale and bring your torso forward, folding in half with your chest as close to the floor as possible. Inhale as you return to the start.
Half frog pose
Start by laying on your front and lift your chest up to the ceiling using your hands. Supporting yourself on one hand, use the other to reach and raise your foot towards your bum, folding your leg in half. Relax as you return the leg back down and reach to the opposite side with the opposite hand.
Thread the needle
Lay on your back, with your knees bent and feet on the ground. Cross one foot over the other leg so it rests on the thigh. Lift the other leg off the ground and feed your hand through the gap in your legs to pull your back leg up towards your face.
Whilst these stretches will aid recovery, it’s inevitable your legs are going to ache, to improve any discomfort you may experience, grab yourself a torture device… I mean foam roller. Foam rolling your calves is particularly important if you’re walking down the aisle in heels.
And when your partner laughs at your aching pins, warn him, next week we’re bringing in reinforcement, so he’d better grab his trainers!
This workout is part of our wedding workout guide.
After last week's Aisle Ready Arms, it’s time to take things up a notch, so get ready to say ‘yes’ to sculpted shoulders.
Boost your confidence with this shoulder-focused workout, perfect for those going strapless. All you need are a couple of sets of dumbbells; I suggest a light pair and a heavier pair, and a mat, or clear space in which you can move around freely.
Your warm up is the same as last week, so you should be pros at this by now. The moves are simple and effective, taking your heart rate over 130bpm to get the job done.
The 100: Complete 20 of each of these exercises to warm your body up so you are limber and ready to exercise.
- 20 x Forward and Backwards Arm Circles
- 20 x Trunk twists
- 20 x Star Jumps
- 20 x Heel Flicks
- 20 x High Knees
Now you’re good and ready, let’s get to work!
Last week you were working on 10 reps, but this week, we’re going for a dirty dozen!
Pike Push Ups
Start as though you were about to complete a regular pushup, with your arms extended beneath your shoulders in a plank position. To complete a pike push up you now bring your bum into the air as high as you can and complete a push up from this position. This puts more focus onto the shoulders. You’re going for 12.
Up and Down Planks
Start in a plank from your hands. Keeping your balance and control, lower one side so that you are in a plank from your forearm, match the other side and then pick yourself back up into an extended plank one side at a time. Both sides up and down counts as one rep, let’s get 12.
Lie on your side and place your elbow directly underneath your shoulder with your forearm flat on the floor. Push your side up so you’re propped up on your elbow, keeping your body streamlined with your hips lifted. Hold here for 30 seconds, before switching and repeating on the other side.
Plank with Renegade Row
For this move you’ll need to grab your pair of dumbbells. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, come into an extended plank. Leading with the elbow, lift your dumbbell up towards your armpit for a row. Return the dumbbells to the floor in an extended plank position and then repeat the other side. You should complete 12.
This one requires your heavy weights. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your dumbbells held in front of your face. Your palms should be facing towards you, with your weights held as though they were in a static bicep curl, you then bring your dumbbells round until they are at the start point for a shoulder press. You’ll be shaped like a Y with your arms at a 90-degree angle, palms facing out, from here we then push above the head, without pausing. As you return the weights to their start position, you turn your palms back in to face towards you. Palms face in, out and then in again. Complete 12.
Back to your lighter dumbbells. Grab a weight in each hand, palms facing towards you. Raise the dumbbells up in front of you with straight arms until they are in line with your chest, from here split your arms and bring each dumbbell back until they are extended in line laterally with your shoulders. 12 reps.
Grabbing a lighter dumbbell in each hand, extend your arms out by your sides and draw little circles in the air. Continue circling for 30 seconds. Push through the burn, think wedding bells. You can do it.
The Finisher: Dumbbell Press Burpees
These are tough. Grab your dumbbells and hit the deck, jumping your legs out and in for a burpee. Now as you jump up to finish 1 rep, lift your weights above your head for a shoulder press. Killer. 12 to finish!
Complete this circuit 3 times over for shoulders ready for showing off in your wedding dress.
Shrug and Roll
Relax. Raise your shoulders up towards your ears and give them a roll, circling forwards and backwards.
Bend and Stretch
Bend over and let your upper body hang loose, if your arms are dangling against the floor, grab your forearms to allow a further stretch.
Cross Body Reach Behind The Head
Lift your right arm straight up, then bend at the elbow and let hand fall behind your head, bend your left arm round and reach towards the right hand. Your aiming for them to meet by your shoulder blades. Swap and do the same for the other side.
Perfect Your Posture
Top tip: Work on your posture to create better-looking shoulders. Slumped over shoulders make you look smaller and tired. Practice keeping your chest lifted by relaxing your shoulders with this 3 part routine. Shrug, Push, Drop. First, shrug your shoulders up as high as you can to your ears, then push them right back, sticking your chest out and squeezing your shoulder blades together. Finally, drop your shoulders back down. Think up, back and down and always try to stand with your sternum facing up.
Next week… “I do” want a flat stomach...
With mince pies and festive feasts coming up, a lot of us will be considering our exercise regime and how to stay fit over the winter. You may be a seasoned runner or just thinking about taking it up to help keep that Christmas excess in check. The problem with this time of year is the weather: do you run inside or out, or a mixture of both?
What are the differences?
Gyms tend to be very accessible and plentiful. They usually always have a good stock of treadmills waiting to be used. The downside is that you will need to pay a monthly (or per use) fee. When at the gym, there will be like-minded people seeking to improve their fitness which means you can stay motivated. You will also benefit from the warmth and safety of being inside, as well as the fact everything you need is in one place. You could even watch a TV while you run, although this isn't always conducive to a good workout.
The outdoors are always there, it will never be too busy and it is free. All you need is a little motivation and a 30-minute run. It is incredibly accessible. The downside here is, of course, the weather and the surfaces. You may have to work harder and be careful. It is more motivating to run outdoors as the scenery keeps things interesting and it is more refreshing than staring at a blank wall for 30 minutes!
Which is better?
Treadmills are great for setting and maintaining a pace. You can use them in any weather and they are brilliant for endurance training. You can develop and maintain a good stride and have a tailor made run. The downside is boredom and it may well put you off going back. On the other hand, when running outside there is a lot to see and once you get so far into your run, you still have to run back, so motivation is a huge factor. It is free and you can do it with other things, such as running errands, running with friends and so on. The downside is the weather. It can be cold and damp. There are also hazards like cars and people getting in the way that you need to consider.
In the end, it is up to you and your preferences. Running is a great exercise and done correctly, it will improve your fitness. If you cant decide, then you can use both methods and use the gym and the outdoors. If you like to tune out to music and just run thought free, the gym could be for you. Or if you need changing scenery, consider outdoor running, just get the right kit.