What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger… if you have a chance to recover from it. Otherwise, it just wears you down and can lead to weight gain, and the storage of extra body fat. But how can you gain weight if you’re exercising everyday? How often should you actually workout?
You’ve probably heard that exercise is a form of “good” stress. You challenge your body and it bounces back stronger and more resilient than it was before. This adaptive response is known as hormesis: growth in response to low or intermittent levels of stress that could be dangerous or deadly at a higher level.
This type of stress is highly dependent on a manageable dose + recovery. High-intensity exercise can act as hormetic stress (beneficial) if you rest and fuel your body appropriately. However, if you are over-training and under-recovering (double whammy if you also under-eating) exercise can quickly become a source of chronic stress (toxic), which is quite damaging.
Over-training and/or constantly training to failure in every workout actually reduces the muscular adaptations and counteracts the benefits of exercise. In other words, adequate rest and recovery is equally as important as the workout itself.
Knowing If You’re Over-trained
Common symptoms of over-training include declining performance, hormonal imbalances, sleep disturbances, impaired immune function, injury, anxiety & depression. However, these are downstream effects indicative of an individual that’s been over-training for months or years. The two far most commons symptoms acute of over-training are:
- Decreased desire to train
Your body is smart. The first sign of over-training is your mind requesting a day-off. A good rule of thumb is if, after a 10-15-minute warm-up, you still wish you weren’t there, it’s probably a day you should rest. Take it easy, don’t let your ego get the best of you.
- Slower than normal results (body composition changes, weight gain or slowed fat loss)
Why does your body store fat? In anticipation of an emergency of fuel shortage. Stress hormones CAUSE fat storage. If you aren’t dosing exercise correctly to meet your fitness level, match recovery or in balance with the demands of your lifestyle, you are flooding your system with stress hormones. If you progress has stalled or you look/feel “puffy” (inflammation & water retention) it’s likely your training schedule does not include enough recovery.
What You Can Do
The harder you push, the more seriously you need to take your recovery. If you think you might be over-training, here are a few ideas that never hurt:
Take your workouts down a notch.
Approach your workouts for a week or two at 60-70% of your “max” and try to fuel everything with nose breathing. This helps you stay in a more relaxed state. Remove “AMRAP” and “For Time” from your vocabulary and just focus on movement.
An hour or two of extra sleep.
This will do way more than foam rolling or taking supplements. Your body is a master healer if you just let it do it’s job.
Extra nutrient-dense food
This includes CARBS, especially if your exercise of choice is HITT or weight training! Adequate nutrition and calorie intake is ESSENTIAL for recovery. You can’t expect muscle repair if you don’t give your body resources to do so.
Manage chronic stressors
This will help you recover faster from the stressors you choose (i.e. exercise)
Increase low-intensity movements.
Rest doesn’t necessarily mean that you “do nothing”. Take a walk, ride your bike, stretch or incorporate yoga. Movement will improve circulation, reduce inflammation and mobilize your joints.
To gain benefits from a hormetic stressor, such as high intensity exercise or strength training, you need to exceed your current “comfort zone” but it does not need to bury your comfort zone six feet underground. The best results come from a challenge that allows your body to interpret the stress and recover from it, not release a massive dose of stress hormones to signal emergency every day of the week.
Remember: Training + Recovery = Adaptation.
Training + Training + Training = Decline
More is not always better.
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Written by: Coach Courtney King