Exercise, Fitness, Health and Wellness, Mental Health, running, Uncategorized, Workout

That time I overtrained…

I have been on my health and fitness journey for just over three years now and to say I have fallen in love with the lifestyle would be a massive understatement.  I honestly look forward to waking up working out, fueling my body with nutritious foods, and prioritizing my health and well-being each and every day.  Three years ago I set out to lose ten pounds.  That was my one and only goal.  What I had no idea of at the time was that in the process of losing the weight I would gain so much more.

I gained my health back, but not only my physical health, maybe more importantly my mental health.  I gained my self-confidence back. I gained a purpose in life that I didn’t have before. I gained an overwhelming desire to push myself, to never stop learning and growing and to keep setting and knocking down bigger and better goals for myself each and every day.  In short, I lost the weight and gained a version of me that I could not be more proud of today.

The one and only problem I have run into with this new version of myself is my “off-switch” sometimes seems to be broken.  I am SO in love with this lifestyle and the benefits I reap from living it, I don’t want to let up for even just one day.  I want to workout everyday.  I want to push myself to lift heavier, run further, bike harder terrain, eat more vegetables, drink more protein shakes, so on and so forth that even when I know I need to take a day off, I have a really hard time doing it. 

Maybe I’m addicted to the endorphins. Maybe I am addicted to the feeling of pride that comes with accomplishing things I never thought I would be able to do.  Maybe it’s a little bit of both those things mixed with the fact that I have found workout programs (check them out here) that are actually fun, challenging, and offer so much variety that I never get bored. Whatever it is, I am here to admit today that I recently found out what skipping too many of those rest days can get you…hint: it is nothing good!   And let me tell you folks, I learned a valuable lesson and I learned it the hard way. 

I won’t go into all the down and dirty details but I will tell you that a few months back, I was pushing myself especially hard.  I was soaking up the last of the beautiful fall weather and getting out on my mountain bike as much as I possibly could, running on the days I wasn’t biking and of course hitting those home lifting and HIIT style workouts that I love so much in between.  I was more than overdoing it and I was overdoing it seven days a week. For a while I felt great.  I was noticing more muscle forming, my endurance increasing and my over all fitness levels skyrocketing.  Again, I felt great…until suddenly I didn’t.   

It seemed to come out of nowhere.  I went from getting stronger and faster, to getting slower and weaker.  Seemingly out of the blue I could barely run a mile without huffing and puffing and feeling like I was having a heart attack.  I suddenly had no desire to pick up my weights and press play on my favorite workouts. And what was probably the final straw that forced me to sit up and take notice was my anxiety was through the roof.  I mean, full blown panic attacks the likes of which I hadn’t experienced in years!

Of course, thinking I was stricken with some terrible disease, I googled all my symptoms and spent days obsessing over what they could possibly mean.  I went as far as to see my doctor, get a chest xray done, try a variety of allergy medications to rule out a particularly bad reaction to the apparently high levels of ragweed we were experiencing at the time, all to no avail.  The doctor didn’t have any answers for me, the Xray came back clear and the allergy medication didn’t even make a dent in the way I was feeling.

Frustrated, a little scared but unwilling to give up, I researched more.  I again tried plugging in all my symptoms to a search bar and amongst a whole host of crazy diseases most of which I couldn’t even pronounce, there it was.  The last thing I would have come up with on my own but probably the most obvious cause of my then current affliction, I was overtraining.  At first, I thought no way.  I am smarter than that.  I know my body better than that.  I am a lean, mean, in-tune with myself, fitness machine.  There is no way that I feel so terrible just because I hadn’t taken enough rest days.  Then I really seriously thought about it.   Not only had I not, not taken enough rest days, I hadn’t actually taken one at all in so long I couldn’t even remember when the last one was.

I had all the classic symptoms:

  • I was finding normally easy workouts to be hard, and hard workouts to be impossible – Decreased performance is like the most predominant sign you have overtrained, and this sign hit me like a ton of bricks.  I remember starting out what I had planned to be about a 3-4 mile run and after making it only about a half of a mile feeling like I was literally having a heart attack.  I couldn’t catch my breath, I was having pains in my chest and I sincerely thought I might have to call someone to come pick me up and drive me back to my house because my legs felt that heavy.  This exact same thing happened a second time to me about a week later but instead of happening when I was running it happened when I set out on a bike ride, one that I had done countless times before.   Again, I got a few minutes into the workout and all the same things started happening.  I had to turn the bike around and actually walk it all the way back to my car because I couldn’t even pedal the mile or so back. 
  • I was incredibly sore – I mean sore to the point I could barely walk for several days after one particular leg day workout.  I had done an 80 Day Obsession workout one afternoon that I had probably done at least five or six times before and woke up the next day with so much soreness I was almost in tears.  For at least two full days I was barely able to walk, trying to sit down was borderline excruciating and living on the 3rd floor of a condo building with no elevators got really painful really quickly.  I was sorer than I had been in as long as I could remember and what made no sense was I really didn’t do anything that extreme that should have warranted the kind of reaction my body was having. The soreness thankfully dissipated after about three days but it was definitely a warning sign my body needed a time out. 
  • I was having a lot of trouble sleeping – If any of you have trouble sleeping or are insomniacs you know how frustrating it is to be so tired but unable to get yourself to sleep!  I would lay down to try to sleep but I would either not be able to fall asleep and just lay there and stare at the ceiling for hours or I would end up waking up like a zillion times during the night…or sometimes both!  I wasn’t ever falling into that deep, REM sleep that is so important for our bodies to recover and repair themselves so I became like a walking zombie just going through the motions but not doing much else.  This lack of sleep night after night started to accumulate which predictably led me to my next symptom….
  • I was tired ALL the time – I mean that kind of tired where it is almost painful, I was so tired.   Extreme fatigue is probably a better way of describing it.  For days on end, I struggled to do anything and everything.  My body was tired, the brain fog was real, and my crankiness levels were off the charts.  Even thinking about doing anything was exhausting.  I willed myself through the days by just putting one foot in front of the other, not really accomplishing anything, just sort of existing.  This was a tough one for me because I am definitely one of those people who likes to be going and doing all the time.  I hate sitting around. I barely ever watch TV and in my mind I am always thinking of the next things I want to get done.  Not having the energy to get off the couch…talk about frustrating!!
  • I was losing interest – My level of exhaustion coupled with how sore I was finding myself even after doing the lightest of workouts started to lead me down the path of not wanting to do the things I had previously loved doing so much just weeks before.  The joy I once felt in being able to workout or get on my bike or set out on a run was replaced with dread because of how hard I knew even the lightest of workouts would be and the disappointment with myself that I was no longer able to perform at the levels I had so recently been capable of.  I started getting really frustrated, even angry at myself, at my body, at the workouts themselves and for the first time in years doubted I would ever again be able to workout, and enjoy myself, like I had been.
  • My anxiety was through the roof – I mentioned this one above but it was probably the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back for me.  After a particularly nasty panic attack one day I finally realized my entire system (mind and body) was at the breaking point.  Having not had any real anxiety to speak of and certainly no panic attacks in close to two years, I was shocked that they had come back, and it forced me to deal with the fact I was not ok and could not continue down the road I was on.  The day I had this panic attack was the day I decided to really try to figure out what as going on with me and the day that eventually led me to discovering how real a thing overtraining is. 

Some other common and downright scary (if you ask me) symptoms of overtraining include increased headaches, irregular heart beats, increased incidence of injury, decreased appetite and/or weight loss and even reproductive issues in women!  Bottom line you guys, overtraining is real, and while it can be really tough to recognize and often mistaken for a ton of much more serious problems, it is can be pretty easily dealt with and overcome. 

In my case, I just took some time off.  I rested, I ate healthy nutritious foods, I drank plenty of water and I waited until I felt better to resume any intense exercise.  Just like everything else in life, exercise, especially intense exercise, should be done with a touch of moderation.  Going full on beast mode, every single day, week in and week out, does your body and mind no favors.  Rest is just as important to a fitness routine as training days.  Don’t be like me and learn this lesson the hard, and somewhat painful way. Schedule in rest days, stick to them and continue to thrive and crush those New Year 2021 goals!

Xoxoxo –

Beth

89 thoughts on “That time I overtrained…”

  1. Thanks for this post! I did a little bit of over training when I did a 31 day running streak. For me that meant no rest days. I am used to taking a least one day of rest but on this streak in January from January 1st to January 31st I did not take a rest day. And my body was feeling it. My right foot/calf was almost always tight. And I was walking funny. I have trained for a full marathon a couple of times so I was familiar with this pain but the mental part of it was hard. Run 1 mile every day on top of some of the other exercising I was doing, biking, and some boot camp workouts. I was tired of it. So I ended my 31 days of running and plan to write a little blog about it. Thanks for this post!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Excellent post! First, I will apologize for the long comment, but this topic is right in my wheelhouse. I think you are right about the endorphins. It definitely has something to do with wanting to feel those endorphins. I think we are cut from the same cloth when it comes to working out. I’ve been working out my entire life, and you quickly start realizing when you reach a limit. The post-workout insomnia is real, much like you’ve mentioned. I couldn’t put my finger on it why I couldn’t sleep. I was exhausted, and to your point, was immediately prone to injuries. I connected the dots that I started working out later in the day, and it was the cause. I am sure you can relate, but I have come to be VERY familiar with DOMS, aka delayed-onset muscle soreness. I always fell prisoner of the moment when I felt good in the gym and just went all out—only to be suffering two days later. You made the right move. The body is an indicator, in this case, take some time off. Excellent advice! 👏😊

    Liked by 2 people

  3. How easy to get trapped into our own self esteem! I have seriously taken a different lifestyle about one year ago. Lost 12kg and swim regularly 2km in open sea. I train open air. I feel great but sometimes I had to prove myself I am in control, i.e. it is me who can stop or push anytime. Otherwise i would either become angry of doing anything else than swimming on a sunny day, or just neglect my duties for some fitness. This is not acceptable if I really am the confident man i pretend to have become. Thank you for sharing your experience, it comes just when a close friend, overlly active 14 y.o. girl, is struggling for life due to her refusal for calories and obsessions with training.
    Being a gentleman farmer, my closer image is gthe one of an orange tree, who just before perishing explode in full blossoms, with barely any green leaves left. In human eyes it looks like astrong recovery, but in mothernature language is just the last effort to pass its genes through pollination.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Glad you’re back. You’ve been gone a minute and I noticed. Figured something difficult had happened in your life. We want to express only what we want people to hear – life is great! life is great! All of us have difficulties. Anyway, glad you worked it out & are back.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Excellent thoughts related to overtraining! Once you realize the benefits of exercise and nutrition, it’s very hard to maintain a necessary balance to make sure you don’t overdo things. There’s a fine line between pushing yourself and causing some difficulties – I have to watch this closely for myself. Thanks for the reminder!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Great post! It’s so important to listen to our bodies. I make a point to tell my running team to observe the rest days in their training schedule and watch out for symptoms of over training, especially first time marathoners! Thank you for articulating your experience so well.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. It’s hard to believe that too much exercise can be bad for you … but I guess my grandmother probably had good reason why she always said “too much of a good thing, is not necessarily a good thing” (or something like that ☺️). But I do believe that moderation in everything is the key to one’s health.
    I’m glad you’re better – take good care of yourself.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. This spoke to me! One of my 2021 priorities is rest days…they really make such a difference physically even if I’m not quite ready for them mentally. Those endorphins are addictive. Stay well!

    Liked by 4 people

  9. I was thinking about you — and this post — today, Beth, when I was thinking I was edging into the overdoing it zone… Not to the same extent, but just stubbornly not backing down a bit this week.
    I think you hit the nail on the head for a lot of us.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Fantastic post! I was hooked. I’m training right now and it’s good to be aware of overtraining! I’m in this group where I see all sorts of folks post their routine for the day. It sometimes makes me feel like Im not doing enough, but I remind myself every body is different

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Beth, as a horse woman I see this happen to horses too. People think they should train all the time, but animals, just like us, need a break. Ever notice how our pets (and children) run around like crazy, then curl up and sleep? I, now at the tender age of 70, find I can out hike, out split wood, out generally blast through a day better than most 18 year olds, but now I also find that if I don’t spend a day computerizing and relaxing, my productivity plummets. Good for you to figure it out. Think of it this way. Most people have 9-5 office jobs where they bemoan the fact that they sit all day, so when they can,
    they get out and exercise. We are lucky, we can exercise as much and whenever we want. So, take time to be an office worker. Let your muscles soak for a bit. and, keep up the good work.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Good post. I have a similar mindset to you in training, from what I read, and have to be careful not to overdo things. My experience in the past with overtraining is about the same as yours. It took me awhile in the past to learn that just become some of something is good that doesn’t mean more and more is always better.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. Great post! It may seem counter intuitive, but training nonstop 24/7 is not the best way to achieve goals. Consistency is the #1 way to get results and overtraining doesn’t promote consistency. Just like you experienced, it more commonly leads to plateaus or even backsliding.
    Again, great post!

    Liked by 2 people

  14. great post. I had a similar cycle of over-exercise, addiction to exercise, then burn out, 6 or 7 years ago. In retrospect I was training to block out grief and becoming addicted to the endorphins (who wants to grieve the loss of a family member when we can get an exercise high instead) and then of course I refused to take rest days because I didn’t want to stop. It’s worth talking to someone, even just a friend, to help work through. good luck!

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Hi FAB. Long time no virtual see. Recovery and rebuilding of tissue is the essence of gain from exercise. Tearing down with no building up in order to satisfy a psychological fear of not exercising enough actually can cause severe damage and make you weaker or cause injury. The more fitness people and their disciples understand the repair and recovery phase the more gains they can make. Just like sleep repairs the brain, the muscles and other tissues need time to react to increased stress. I talk to my groveling, servile, zombie-like disciples about bone density for example. The bones need to react to higher loads. That takes rest.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Running plans and challenges are great for motivation but sometimes they backfire. Just recovered from a wicked blister and I need to get back to workouts on the regular. Running is in my future for March as well. Trying to get back to being a solid 5k runner instead of a dying after 100 feet runner.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Yes, that definitely sounds familiar, although maybe not quite to THAT degree. Recovering from years with a bad back and neck has forced me to take it slow, but I still pushed myself way too hard at first.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Thanks for sharing! Sadly, you are not alone. Many people overtrain because they don’t believe “less is more.” They think MORE is more. People wait so long to do something about their health that they get super anxious when they look down at their guts, and they think, “I want this gone NOW!” So they go ballistic, thinking worker out harder and more frequently will make that fat melt away when in fact studies have shown the opposite to be true.

    Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

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