Did you know that many women are overtraining and don’t even know it? Maybe you’re one of them! Overtraining can cause many health issues, including weight gain…probably the exact opposite of a regular exerciser expects. Let’s explore.
In science-y terms, overtraining syndrome is an imbalance between training and recovery. What that means is that there is too much exercise (for you) at too high of an intensity (for you) without enough recovery time (for you). I say ‘for you’ because one of the leading reasons women (and men) fall into the trap of overtraining is comparison. Just because your friend works out all day, every day doesn’t mean you should too!
Anyone can experience overtraining syndrome. An unexpected surge in duration, intensity, or frequency of movement can impact the body in surprising ways. Everyday people are highly prone to overtraining syndrome because of comparison or aggressive goal setting (i.e. training for a marathon, wanting to lose 10 pounds).
Overtraining and Weight Gain
Overtraining syndrome-related weight gain can come from reduced metabolism due to hormonal imbalances or it can come as a byproduct of your emotional state. Yes, really. Depression, anxiety, stress, and fatigue can all cause a person to overeat. Macros be darned, I’m eating that cookie! One may choose to indulge in comfort foods as a means to cope with excess stress or anxiety, see an increase on the scale, run to the gym to ‘remedy’ this, and thus, a cycle of overtraining is created.
When your hormones are out of wack and cortisol is high (from too much exercise, lack of sleep or plain ol’ stress), the body gets pissed off and responds by increasing blood sugar and insulin and lowering metabolism, which cause weight gain, especially around the midsection. Additionally, overtraining can cause something known as HPA Axis Dysfunction. Basically, this is when the increased stress due to overtraining (and other lifestyle actors) causes a severe miscommunication between the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal glands, which causes all kinds of negative physical effects – everything from fatigue and insomnia to gut issues and weight gain.
How to recover from overtraining syndrome
Overtraining is not a badge of honor. Being depressed, irritable, stressed, overly hungry, or fatigued is not normal. If you’re feeling any of these symptoms, make adjustments immediately, before symptoms worsen. Here’s how to do that.
Take a hard look at your workout routine. Is it long or intense? Are you allowing your body to recover? Are you exercising and then performing a physically- or mentally-demanding job? Take an inventory and commit to making adjustments.
Sounds obvious, but if you’ve already spiraled pretty far down the rabbit-hole of overtraining, slam on the brakes now and give your body a few days of rest. Working out 6 or 7 days of week might be too much. Hell, 4 or 5 days might be too much if your training is intense.
Incorporate adjustments that ensure that you don’t go back into overtraining mode. Consider reducing intensity, duration, or frequency of exercise. Replace your daily 5K run with a yoga session or a foundational strength-based routine.
Make adjustments to your nutrition, work-life balance, sleep pattern, and stress factors. While overtraining syndrome is a direct result of exercise, these additional life-related issues impact the body and its susceptibility to overtraining syndrome. Don’t disregard how your lifestyle affects your training. It’s a HUGE piece of the puzzle!
Overcoming Overtraining Syndrome
There is life after overtraining. When you commit to dropping the “all or nothing” mantra and adopting balance, you will win. Not only will your body feel better, but with the right nutrition and exercise regimen, it will look better too.
My prescription for an ideal exercise program is one that is based on strength-training fundamentals, which is also great for healthy hormones! Lifting heavy (for you) weights builds the essential muscle you need to improve your physique, boost your metabolism, and protect your skeletal system. Shorter, more efficient workouts allow the body the recovery time it needs to keep you in the game longer.
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StrongMadeSimple was designed to get you the results you deserve without sacrificing your health. And because it requires minimal equipment and space, it’s perfect for working out at home.
StrongMadeSimple is only on sale for a limited time, so be sure to mark your calendar for next TUESDAY (4/7) to get it for yourself. In the meantime, be sure to sign up for the waitlist to get the latest updates (and discounts)!
OMG yes! I have to be super careful not to overtrain or over- diet! I have hashimoto’s and it’s crazy how the more “perfect” my diet and exercise looks the more I gain belly fat. But if I lay off and loosen up- boom! And it’s soo annoying when even docs are like “you must have been eating more than that or having more on cheat days etc” It’s like… nope, it was my hormones.
Wow, I have Hashinotos too so your comment was super helpful. Thank you
This is all so true. I used to be super into training and would work out like 1.5 hrs just about every day, doing lots of weights and 30-45mins of cardio after. I was pretty strong and in my 20s I could train like this. I stopped when I had kids but started again when they all went to school, when I was in my late 30s. I loved killing myself at the gym. I was strong. But I was so tired and super hungry. Always hungry. And I gained a lot of weight. I was stressed. I quit going to the gym completely in 2016. I didn’t start going again till July of 2019. I lost a lot of weight without trying and my hunger went way down. I was nervous to start exercising again but I’m in my 40s now, and I need to do something for strength, etc. I only let myself walk 3 days/week and do a strength circuit 2 days. That’s it. I’m watching my hunger levels because that’s my biggest cue. I wish I could go hog wild like I used to, but it will come back and bite me. So i can only do a little bit, and it’s okay. I don’t have time to spend hours anyway with work, etc. I watch family members doing 2-a-days and I think, you are not going to get the results you want by doing that much…i know they won’t listen to me but overtraining is a thing! And it is so easy to do.
How do you know you are doing enough though? I just downloaded the Sweat app and am trying the fierce at home program. I did day 1 – the workout lasted 30 minutes. After I was done I wanted to do more because I felt like I did not do enough. I am used to working out for an hour and after I usually am a sweaty mess. How do I know that by sticking with this program it will be enough?
my thoughts exactly! it never feels like enough, especially not <1hour. this quarantine/gym closure is killing me bc time, intensity, cal burn has decreased significantly. its scary to step back and i worry about it ALL. a lot!
Calorie burn from exercise isn’t all that important. It’s more about building muscle and diet! 🙂
I’ve been doing Kayla’s workouts for a while. Trust me when I say her 28 minute workout 3x a week is PLENTY. Just give it your all on those reps and stick with it! I’m very active and in my early 30s and her program (second time now) puts me in the best shape ever. I mix in yoga and walking or running on the cardio days. Good luck!
Thanks for your sharing! I’ve been over training for a long time, good to know your information.
This is something I really struggle with. It’s great to hear that I’m not the only one that can exercise too much. I’ve been doing the 80 day obsession workouts from Beach Body and I love them, but I’m tired and need a nap. Based on your post I can tell that means I’m doing too much. How do I know what is enough? And I don’t just wan to do enough – I love exercise.
If you’re having the symptoms mentioned, it’s probably too much.