AM I OVERTRAINED?

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If you have to ask, you probably are...
But before we get started we're going to drop a few facts on you guys and girls that "embrace the grind" a little too frivolously, as overtraining has been linked to:
  • Muscle loss
  • Pain in joints and tendinitis
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Psychological negative effects including anger, depression, irritability, and apathy.
  • Burnout
  • Excessive tiredness (regardless of how much one sleeps)
  • Decreased desire to continue training (loss of motivation)
  • Significantly decreased training capacity/athletic performance
  • Reduced libido (or possibly erectile dysfunction)
  • Adrenal fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Brain fog (inability to think clearly)

That's right, it can attack you physically, emotionally and even while you're sleeping (or trying to). 

Depending on how deep you are down the overtraining hole, even a mild case of overtraining can take you a week to recover from.

It's also worth knowing what is overtraining and what is overreaching. 

Overtraining is loosely described as the state of an athlete's plateau or regression from regular physical exercise or their training regime. It is an imbalance between recovery and training.

Think of your body as a bank account. 

Every training session drains that account and every time you purposefully rest you are filling the account back up like a payday.

But what happens if we overdraw the account and go into debt?

Yep. We're having the overtraining talk.

When your body (account) goes into debt, the debt collectors come and start taking your stuff. And by stuff, we mean precious muscle mass, sleep and general mental health. 

Overreaching is the goal of physical training efforts. 

To continuously overcome and adapt to new and greater physical challenges, without exceeding the much-required rest to fill up the bank again. 

So what do we do?

We give you the tools to recognise the signs in overtraining and head it off before it gets its grips on you and needs a holiday for you to shake.

And we're off...

1. Libido

 Possibly the most important, am I right??

One of the first things your body can jettison from the sinking ship is your reproductive system, male and female. 

After all, what's the use of seeking a partner or creating life if you're struggling to survive with the limited calories and rest you're having and massive amounts of physical exertion?

This is the way your body thinks.

You can't reason with it, you have to work with it.

For men, the drop in libido comes with a drop in testosterone production and with it a lack of protein synthesising goodies that will create muscle. You will also be unphased by the opposite sex. 

Not good.

For women, the toll can be a bit more drastic including entire episodes of menstrual cycles coming to a screeching halt. 

Again, why bother creating life if you're barely surviving, breaking down tissue and scraping by?

If you're feeling unphased, can't stand to attention in the bedroom, got no lead in the pencil, have a missed monthly or just not holding up to your end of the bargain, give it a day or two of serious rest before you really get into trouble. 

2. Mood

If you're all doom and gloom when everything is going your way, the answer could very well be that you've drained the mental bank account. 

Testosterone has been linked to greater levels of happiness and coincides with fulfilment and/or lack thereof when it comes to competition and exercise endeavours. Even in women.

If you're feeling "off" or have a taste of the blues it could be a sign to recuperate before you lose some mates. Honestly, it's worth it. 

3. Focus 

Your ability to sit peacefully and complete a task for a designated time can be seriously out of whack if you're overtrained. The reasoning is that your fight/flight response has been thrashed by the amount of high paced problem solving you're doing that your primitive brain thinks you're constantly under attack and is working to keep you alive.

Even if you're checking emails.

Weird but it's a thing, a thing that you should be wary of.

4. Heart Rate Variability (HRV)

HRV is the newest tool in determining if you're overtrained as the former method, resting heart rate, is far too individual and influenced by genetics, stress, and a number of external factors.

HRV is the variation in time between heartbeats with healthier hearts having more space between them. Increasing your cardiovascular training will see an increase in your HRV scores meaning that your heart needs fewer beats to transport the same amount of oxygen that you normally would. With more training at a healthy load, your heart will even learn to transport more oxygen in fewer beats.

This is mega efficient.
But what if your HRV is on the opposite end of the scale and you're overtrained? 

You probably guessed it, but your heart frantically transports little tidbits of oxygen to your muscles and organs that require it to function effectively.

Think of it as your heart hyperventilating. 

Dramatic I know but that's the point.
By excessively training past the point you can recover you're to perform at 50% or even lower depending on how deep down the overtrained hole you are. 

There are cool apps you can use to check this and this is even more accessible now with smartwatches. It could even be a function on your existing devices that you've not explored.

 5. Physical Tests

We've lumped these together because not only are they fairly self-explanatory, they can and should be used altogether in one of the more accessible, yet inaccurate ways of finding out if you're overtrained. 

Therefore, why we ask you to use them together to get a more accurate assessment. 

The following will need a set point, that is a test when you're rested yet warmed up (not feeling any of the aforementioned effects!).

5a. Record these values and compare them to when you're feeling the grind from training. 

  • Vertical jump test
  • Jog test
  • Pushup test

Measure as high as you can jump vertically, time a 1km run at a steady pace or count the number of pushups at ease with a steady tempo.
Are your values comparable to the base values you did when you were rested and fresh?

If not, you know what's up by now. 

 

5b. Try these for more of a "feel" of when you're getting bogged down from training and are trying to nip it in the bud before it takes hold. 

  • Mobility
    How can you move and perform some of the sport specific tasks you'd need to?
    For BJJ think hip escapes, double legs etc.
  • Flexibility
    Can you form some of the positions needed for your sport?
    Keep some yoga poses in mind for this.
  • Soreness
    Can you complete these without the early onset of fatigue in the muscle or are your muscles sore to the touch?
  • Grip Strength
    How long can you hold something with a clenched fist?
    This is an indication of how taxed your neural pathways are in relation to motor function.
  • Body Temperature
    If you feel hot to the touch or are the only one boiling in the room while not performing any physical activity, this can be an indication of blood pooling into your muscles to repair the damage caused by an overdose of training.

And there you have it.
A pretty comprehensive guide on what to look for if you're burning out, fading out, or just plain flat when it comes to the end of a training week (or weeks).

The easiest prescription for recovering from a bout of overtraining is rest and time.

However, to one-up this again, the easiest way to negate it at all is knowing these symptoms.

I'm Jake Anderson and you're welcome.

 

- Jake Anderson is a Bachelor of Sport Development and Mixed Martial Arts commentator with over 18 years of combined training in various Martial Arts and tertiary education in health & sport. His blogs on the foundations of health and martial arts are dedicated to the communication and education of leading a holistically fulfilling life. 

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