4 signs that told me I was overtraining

Normally, I spend a lot of time and effort encouraging dads to exercise and workout enough, but I want to address the opposite, which is identifying when you might be working out too much.

This is something a lot of guys struggle with, certainly as we think about trying to change the way we look, whether that be losing body fat or trying to add muscle. In fitness, men are constantly told to do more, go harder, go to fatigue, no excuses. Blah, blah, blah.

This mentality can lead to men going too hard, doing too much, and exerting themselves past the point of effectiveness.

Recently, I put together some new workout programming, and I was testing these new workouts myself in an effort to see if they were going to be good enough to pass along to other people.

For two weeks, I did these workouts, and to say that they were intense is severely understating it. The general premise of the plan was to hit each major muscle group three days a week, with one day of rest in between.

So, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays were legs, shoulders, and arms (yes, I was doing legs three days a week), and Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays were chest, back, and abs.

I was experimenting with this because for quite a while now, I’ve been doing total-body workouts where I was, in some way, hitting every major muscle group part every day. The crucial difference was with my total-body workouts, each muscle group was targeted with far less volume that the workouts I was testing out for these two weeks.

These new workouts took the concept of training frequency too far, as they featured crazy amounts of volume done in a very short window of time. My workouts were averaging 53 minutes per workout, but the total volume packed into each workout session and the little amount of rest in between sets, combined with the daily frequency with which I was training my muscles, had me completely gassed.

These workouts were so intense that even by the middle of the first week that I was doing these workouts, I noticed that it was starting to effect me in some pretty significant ways in and out of the gym.

Here are 4 signs that told me I was overtraining:

1. It was harder for me to wake up in the morning.

Normally, when my alarm goes off in the morning, I pop right out of bed and get started on my day. However, during this time, simply turning off my alarm was a struggle, let alone actually moving to get out of bed.

The problem was two-fold: I was too tired to wake up in the morning because my sleep quality had deteriorated, yet I was also having trouble falling asleep at night.

Reduced sleep quality is a sure sign of overtraining.

I had trouble falling asleep because I was overloading my central nervous system to the point where I was restless and unable to shut down at night, which in turn caused me to miss out on any prolonged period of deep, restorative sleep during the night. Thus, exhaustion set in.

2. I lost my energy

I’m a high-energy guy. I have a high energy “set point",” if you can call it that, and it’s typically not until around 9:30 at night that I really start to feel tired and worn out.

However, during these two weeks, I could barely make it to my kids’ 8 p.m. bedtime without feeling like I was going to keel over.

I would fall asleep on the couch just watching a TV show with my wife because I was so exhausted, but when it came time to actually go to bed, I wasn’t getting restful sleep, and on and on and on

It’s odd to write that juxtaposed against my first point where I said I had trouble falling asleep, but the point is all of these sleep issues had a compounding effect.

3. My workouts suffered

There were days in the gym where I simply couldn’t finish what I set out to accomplish — whether it was the number of reps in a set, the number of sets of a particular exercise, or all of the exercises I had planned as part of the entire workout.

Some days, I’d get halfway through my workout and have to cut it short. I either lost all motivation to continue my workout, or worse, I felt I physically could not go any further.

There came a point towards the end of the second week when I realized I hadn’t completed a full planned workout in nearly a week.

4. My mood shifted

Any father knows raising children can be frustrating and exhausting at times. Duh!

But a sure sign of overtraining is that your mood and disposition sour, and I 100-percent experienced this. I was far less responsive to my kids when they wanted to play. I had a short fuse emotionally, and I was not my typical cheerful, goofy self.

My mood was noticeably darker, and its not like anything else changed around the house or at work to bring on such a shift in personality.

There are many other signs of overtraining (lack of motivation, body aches, headaches, joint and/or muscle pain, decreased immunity), but no doubt, I was taxing my body to the point where it was negatively affecting all areas of my life. There possibility even exists that I had pushed my body into adrenal insufficiency with the amount of stress I had placed on it.

The key to understanding if you’re overtraining is to understand your body and continuously monitor how you feel. Pushing yourself is a great way to bust through plateaus and make progress, but be vigilant in listening to your body to be sure you’re not doing more harm than good.

Michael AshfordComment