Aug 17, 2021

How to Know When it’s Time to Take a Break

Are you pushing yourself too hard?

Why is it that sometimes when you push yourself the hardest, your body refuses to cooperate with you. You’re determined to get results and begin to get frustrated, so you start skipping rest days, doing marathon sessions in the gym, and even training multiple times per day. Despite the great efforts, you find yourself losing muscle mass and gaining fat and when you look in the mirror, you’re not happy. A break is likely what is needed, but if you continue overreaching, you may start to put your health at serious risk. In this article, we will discuss the signs of overreaching, the risks faced if you choose to ignore them, and how to take preventive measures so that you can continue making progress towards your fitness goals.

You may have experienced a time in your life when your training is going great, but then out of nowhere, you start to lose your motivation. Your doubling or even tripling your dose of pre-workout, and no matter what pump-up song you choose from your playlist, you still can’t amp yourself up to have a good workout. You leave discouraged and vow to train even harder the next day, but by no means do you “kill it”. You struggle through your workout and leave feeling as though you’ve been hit by a bus. There is actually a term for this type of burnout called overreaching.

"Overreaching occurs when you increase your training volume, intensity, duration, or frequency too quickly without giving your body enough time to recover."

It affects more than just your workouts, other symptoms include mood swings, poor sleep quality, lack of focus, reduced appetite, increased muscle soreness and prolonged recovery, lack of interest in training, and weight loss. But fear not, if you recognize the symptoms in the early stages you can take a few simple steps and quickly recover. However, if ignored, overreaching can lead to over-training where you run the risk of crashing completely, becoming chronically ill and fatigued, and be forced into a complete rest for several months. If you reach this stage, the symptoms become even more severe- not just during exercise but throughout your entire day. You can start to experience depression, insomnia, chronic fatigue, and increased incident of injury and susceptibility to illness.

The question now becomes: how to know when you have gone too far and need to take a break. Over-training is tough to diagnose in most people, but if the symptoms listed above sound all too familiar, chances are you’ve been pushing yourself too hard. There could always be a chance that you have an underlying medical condition, so before you do anything, get checked out by a doctor. If you rule that out, here are three practical steps that you can use to fix it.

  1. By far, the best treatment is rest. Drastically reduce gym time or stop going all together. The longer the over-training has occurred, the more rest is required to allow your body to recover properly.

  1. During your time out of the gym, sleep needs to be your number one focus. Sleep helps build and repair muscle. If you sleep less than six hours a night, you are seriously hindering your body’s ability to recover. Get to bed early and aim for eight hours.

3. Nutrition plays a huge role in recovery. Now is not the time to be cutting carbs and you should no longer be in a calorie deficit. You want to maintain a diet with enough healthy protein, fats, and carbohydrates to support your body. Once you start training again, you want to focus on your pre and post workout meals as they are key for recovery and preventing over-training from reoccurring.

With a few minor lifestyle tweaks and a little R & R, you should feel recovered and refreshed enough to gradually build up your training intensity and start seeing some major gains inside and outside the weight room.

You can also find this article in Inside Fitness Magazine Issue 71 August/September Issue

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