Hi I’m Kerry and I’ve overtrained.
Yes I did.
It’s hard to believe that anyone these days overtrains. With the obesity issue being what it is, why is this even a problem. Well, it is and it’s easier than you think to do. It’s also dangerous. Hence, why I wanted to tell my story about how I overtrained and give you ways to identify if you’re going down that road and how to stop it.
First what is overtraining syndrome? According to Maffetone (2007), “Overtraining may result from an excess number and/or intensity of workouts, lack of recovery or a combination.” Essentially we are not allowing our body to rest enough. Depending on how far you take it, there are three stages of overtraining. I made it to stage three, which takes a lot of effort.
Stage 1: Functional overtraining. This is where you see subtle symptoms emerge. These symptoms are easily ignored. You may feel tired all the time. You exercise performance seems to halt. You may feel a little depressed. You may lose your sex drive. All of these things can be attributed to something else. But if they seem to come out of nowhere, you may be overtraining.
Stage 2: Sympathetic overtraining. You will see more pronounced symptoms that are hard to ignore. This is the stage where your resting heart rate is elevated. You also may see metabolic changes. This may show up with blood sugar drops.
Stage 3: Parasympathetic overtraining. This is the most serious stage. Profound weakness, cardiovascular issues, and your body generally breaking down. At this point you either stop or face serious injury or death.
In a nutshell, don’t workout too much. High intensity interval training seven days a week is not good. I did this and paid for it. But you need more than what you read typically on this subject. Most people don’t have first hand experience on overtraining. I do. Let me tell you what happened to me
I was in my initial stage of losing weight about 6 years ago. I love working out. I would workout every day. I got it in my head that if I did a hard workout every day, I would get where I wanted to go. I set out to do this. It went great for a while. Tony, the voice of reason, said that I was working out too much. A professional athlete only does what I was doing for a short period of time. It wasn’t safe. I ignored him and kept going. Over time I became tired all the time. I was depressed and stopped being interested in things I normally enjoyed. I learned later this was stage 1 of overtraining syndrome.
I kept pushing myself through the tough workouts. No pain, no gain. Well, eventually my blood sugar started dropping for no reason. I would eat high carbohydrate snacks and I couldn’t do anything about it. I went to the doctor and they had no answers. “You’re healthy, I don’t see anything wrong.” Yet I was sitting at my desk at work, shaking and dizzy. My resting heart rate held at about 80. Stage 2.
I still kept going. Then the chest pains and shortness of breath came. I finally stopped when I went for my lunch walk and barely made it 10 feet. I called a doctor friend of ours and she said, “GET YOUR BUTT TO THE ER NOW!!!” She doesn’t freak out like that, unless it’s serious. I drove myself to the hospital. They saw me right away. You know when that happens, it’s serious. Long story short, I was admitted. Tony rushed to the hospital and was freaked out. The funny thing was no one at the hospital knew what was wrong. It was not until I spoke with the cardiologist (who also happened to be an athlete and a bit obsessive about working out) did I know the damage I had done. He told me I had blown out my cardiovascular system. He gave me the article I cited for this post which explained overtraining syndrome. I left the hospital weak and defeated, however, I knew now what I did.
Here’s the kicker to all of this. Here is why it wasn’t worth doing what I did. It took me 2 YEARS to recover. 2 YEARS. Overtraining put me behind in a major way. I learned my lesson. I hope this helps you. My workout week now is hard workouts three days a week and yoga for two days in between. If stage one starts, I take a day or two off and scale back my workouts. While this absolutely sucked, the positive from all of this is I picked up yoga. I would not have touched yoga before. Now I love it. While my body rested I gained flexibility. I’ll give up high intensity workouts before I give up yoga.
So, please use this story to help you keep from overtraining. It’s not worth it. If you see someone else going down this road, use this story to help them stop. The recovery time alone would stop an obsessive person. Who wants to be out for years from working out? That stops me from being stupid now. Yes, what I did was downright stupid. Don’t repeat my mistake.
Maffetone, P. (2007). The Overtraining Syndrome. Retrieved from http://content.bandzoogle.com/users/cippianhotmail/files/The_Overtraining_Syndrome.pdf