It's almost coming to the end of my Sunday, which to fair, has been a relaxing one. After all, Sunday is or was typically known as the day of rest. A day where banks are closed, schools are off, shops are operating under limited trading hours, all because Sunday should be a day where we relax and spend it with our families and loved ones.
However, there is a select group of people who would toss this philosophy out of the window whilst shouting - "Rest? Who needs rest? Rest is for the weak!" Hazard a guess who these people are? Yep, you've guessed it. You and me. People who enjoy going to the gym, lifting weights, and smashing our bodies to the limit day in, day out. Yet, how long can we endure this level of intensity before we throw in the towel and are forced to take a few days off? God forbid.
We've all seen them, the quotes online saying - "Rest day? Where is my rest muscle and how do I train it?" or "Rest Day? Worst day of the week!." Jokes aside, your rest day is the most important day or days of the week. It's when adaptation and growth occurs.
Remember: you don't build muscle in the gym, you merely create a reason for them to grow.
The problem with rest, or taking days off is many of us feel guilty for not exercising and will often ignore the need for rest on the basis of, "I feel fine"so why not do a quick workout or HIIT session?
This then inevitably leads to problems and we then fall into a state of overtraining: A condition in which underperformance is experienced despite continued training.
Overtraining or overtraining syndrome (OTS) usually occurs if loads are too high with insufficient recovery time between sessions. Adaptations will not occur, and instead functional capacity is lost.
Any person or athlete who trains intensely, yet consistently under performs, is considered to be suffering from OTS.
OTS is a complex state that can be hard to recognise early on as overtraining is a gradual process and a subtle one. It occurs in three distinct stages:
The 3 stages of Overtraining Syndrome
Stage 1: Functional Overtraining. The first and earliest stage where very subtle signs and symptoms can indicate you’re starting to over train.
In this stage you may experience the following:
• Hormone imbalance. Elevations of cortisol (stress hormone) with secondary lowering of testosterone and DHEA levels.
• Abnormal hunger or craving for sweets.
• Sleeping irregularities and inability to fall asleep.
• Sexual dysfunction may be a problem for both men and women, typically producing reduced sexual desire and sometimes infertility.
• Mental and emotional stress, including mild or clinical depression. Anxiety is not uncommon either.
Stage 2: Sympathetic Overtraining. A more obvious stage associated with specific nervous, hormonal and mechanical imbalances causing a variety of signs and symptoms.
In this stage you may experience the following:
• Premenstrual syndrome and menopausal symptoms may be secondary complaints for women. Women may find their period disrupted or even stopped at this stage.
• Abnormal craving for salty foods.
• Often joints will become inflamed and painful.
• Cuts or wounds will take longer to heal than usual.
Stage 3: Parasympathetic Overtraining. A serious end-stage of overtraining associated with the exhaustion of neurological and hormonal factors, typically with serious physical, chemical or mental injuries.
By this stage you will begin to notice:
• State of exhaustion, whilst many hormone levels are significantly reduced
• General state of depression
• Significant rate of injury
• Abnormally low resting heart rate and low heart-rate recovery from training
• Hormonal problems may result in dehydration through loss of sodium (hence the abnormal cravings for salty foods in earlier stages) which may and other mineral imbalances and severe cramping. You do not wish to get to this phase, believe me.
How do I know if I'm overtrained?
If you're experiencing any of the following symptoms, then chances are you're reaching a state of overtraining.
• Increased morning or sleeping heart rate (HR)
• Muscle weakness - your usual weight will now feel about 3x heavier
• Altered mood, feeling of fatigue and tiredness
• Sleep disturbance and the inability to fall asleep as well as stay asleep
• Loss of enthusiasm and motivation towards training
• Loss of appetite and sudden drop in weight
• Abnormal cravings for sweet and/or salty foods
• The need to have up to 6 cups of coffee a day in order to keep upright!
If you do recognise one or more of the following I advise you to:
• Decrease your total training time and intensity. Anywhere from 40-60%
• Remove higher intensity anaerobic training. i.e interval training, high volume work etc.
• Focus on re-developing the aerobic system through basic training (1-2 sets of 65-70% intensity) or walking, in order to keep active and begin the recovery process.
So, now when you're contemplating on skipping rest days in favour for interval sprints you'll think twice? Instead, kick the running shoes off, sit back, and enjoy watching an amusing gym clip on YouTube! Or, you could even watch one our popular recipe videos, and treat yourself our high in protein, low in carb chocolate coconut balls.
About Chris Hall
As the founder of Hall Training Systems, it is my mission to provide you with the very best personal training experience. I set up Hall Training Systems as Oxford's leading personal training service in nutrition, performance and weight loss, ensuring I can deliver the very best in training techniques.
You can find me on Facebook, Google+ or why not even give us a Tweet @Hall_Training