While you may be giving it your all each time you go to the gym, you might not be seeing results as quick as you had hoped. So you put forth even more effort in hopes of seeing some changes; while this can lead to quicker weight loss it is definitely not a healthy way to do it. Overtraining can cause a wide range of health concerns and it isn’t something that you should take lightly. According to Eric Broser, a columnist for Iron Man and Planet Muscle Magazine, some of the signs that you’re over training include:

  • Increased morning heart rate
  • Depression
  • Lack of enthusiasm for working out(when you’ve had it in the past)
  • Chronic lethargy
  • Frequent colds
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Excessive muscle soreness
  • Joint pain
  • Frequent strains and/or pulls

Wes Cole, the author of Healthy Habits: How to Change Your Diet and Exercise Habits for Lifelong Fitness adds that some of the earlier signs might include irritability and loss of appetite that only worsen over time. “Your body will give you warnings to slow you down first but if you continue to push, common over training can get serious and even include reduced immune function, muscle or joint injury and menstrual cycle disturbances, Cole said. “If you don’t know when to quit, your body will eventually do it for you.”

If you continue to over train and ignore the signals your body is giving you, you could develop serious damage to the functioning of your immune system, which can lead to illnesses such as bronchitis, severe flu’s, pneumonia and more.  Cole points out that a condition called Rhabdomyolysis is one of the most fatal conditions that can develop as a result of overtraining. This is a condition which the muscle tissue breaks down and the content of the muscle is released into the blood stream, damaging the kidneys, which becomes a very serious medical emergency.

One of the reasons Cole thinks people over train is not just from pushing through serious fatigue, but from having poor form as a result of their fatigue and pushing through anyway.  “Those people almost always get injured, not from overtraining itself but for the fact that bad form and overtraining go hand in hand,” Cole said. “ I’ve actually watched someone fall off the treadmill because her legs were still wobbly from squats the day before.”

In order to make sure you don’t over train, Cole recommends understanding the three phase General Adaptation Syndrome, or GAS. The first phase, the Alarm Phase, is the first response to any conditioning program. During this phase you might feel some soreness, but it doesn’t last too long. Then you have the second phase, the Resistance Phase. During this phase the body is adapting to the stress you have been putting it under as you train. You might have a lot of pain and not be able walk without pain for a couple of days but as you continue with your training you can add more weight or resistance without pain afterwards. The last phase, the Exhaustion Phase is when your body begins to lose the ability to adapt to the stress you’re putting on it. This is when overtraining usually occurs. The way to avoid over training is to practice Periodization, or  long term planning.

“By continuously manipulating and changing the exercises, the total volume (total repetitions or distances) and the intensity (load or speed) you can keep your body moving forward,” Cole explained. “Science has shown that the human body does not improve linearly, which means that sometimes we have to do less in order to eventually do more.”

If you do end up overtraining, you need to rest, but this doesn’t mean just lying around in bed not moving. Cole says this is probably one of the worst things you can do. Light movement, such as doing light house work or just taking a stroll can actually help your muscles recover.