It`s ok to take a break occasionally!

It`s ok to take a break occasionally! When working out becomes an obsession the thought of missing a few sessions is unthinkable, right? Are you officially a gym rat? as I’m sure you know the term `gym rat` is a term for someone who is addicted or obsessed with working out. Basically, the gym is like their second home.

Being a gym rat isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I mean you could be addicted to far worse things such as alcohol or drugs, right? Nothing positive about any of that. But regarding the gym, it`s ok to take a break occasionally, now understand I’m not talking about missing weeks at a time, but rather the occasionally session here and there, listen to your body, if you are constantly sore it might be time to rest a little more in between sessions.

My experience with this

I know this feeling myself, all too well, I was certainly a `gym rat` back in the day before personal training became really thought of. So, with no guidance I learned from my own trial and errors, one of the biggest errors was working out hard twice daily, then not understanding why I wasn’t seeing gains.

One day I got lucky and had some great advice from a gym owner who informed me I’m over training and need to cut back to three sessions a week if I really want to develop muscle and strength, and also pay attention to my diet.

I never considered I was doing too much and thought being constantly sore was part of the deal of being a `gym addict` now I’m worrying about what I will do on my four days off. But I take his word for it and do as he said, and like magic I start developing muscles without the previous pain, now I’m experiencing a nice soreness that isn’t severe.

I was getting to train with lots of experienced people now all offering great advice, and I’m in the best shape since I started and start to realize the mistakes I made in the beginning. On my four days off I’m studying about various aspects of everything associated to the gym, correct form, nutrition, cardio etc. By this time, it`s four years since I first started working out. I have a great training program, and for the first time I really know what I’m doing in a gym.

Over-training or overtaxing your body?

So, let’s take a look at what happens to your body when your love of working out becomes an addiction or obsession, basically, when you become a gym rat.

Over-training Is Rare, But Overtaxing Isn’t. You train hard, harder than everybody else in the gym, of course you do, you’re a gym rat, and that`s what gym rats do, right? So hard that you’re constantly sore, feel mentally drained for a good part of the day, and sometimes lack focus and get mood swings. Despite all this, the big gains aren’t coming.

What Over-training Isn’t

We often get confused about overtraining because even the name steers us in the wrong direction. First of all, overtraining doesn’t mean training too much. Just because you did 30 sets for biceps in one session doesn’t mean that you over-trained them. It doesn’t necessarily mean that what you did was smart, but you didn’t over-train them.

We all have our own recovery capacities, but the point is that overtraining isn’t simply about “training too much.” And getting injured doesn’t necessarily mean you were overtraining either.

What Over-training Is

A physiological state caused by an excess accumulation of physiological, psychological, emotional, environmental, and chemical stress that leads to a sustained decrease in physical and mental performance, and that requires a relatively long recovery period.

There are four important elements in that definition:

  1. Physiological state: Overtraining isn’t an action (i.e., training too much), but a state similar to burnout, medical depression, or illness.
  • An excess accumulation of physiological, psychological, emotional, environmental, and chemical stress: Stress has both a localized and a systemic effect. Every type of stress has a systemic impact on the body, but this impact isn’t limited to the structures involved directly in the stressful event. This systemic impact is caused by the release of stress hormones (glucocorticoids like cortisol, for example) and an overexertion of the adrenal glands.
  • Every single type of stressor can contribute to the onset of an overtraining state. Job troubles, tension in a relationship, death in the family, or pollutants and chemicals in the air we breathe, the food we eat, or the water we drink, etc., can all contribute to overtraining. Training too much is obviously another stress factor that can facilitate the onset of the overtraining state, but it’s far from being the sole suspect.
  • A sustained decrease in physical and mental performance: The key term here is sustained. Some people chalk up a few below-par workouts and automatically assume they’re overtraining. It’s not the case. It could simply be acute or accumulated fatigue due to poor recovery management or a deficient diet.
  • A response to constantly overloading the nervous, immune, and hormonal systems: Training improperly can indeed contribute to this excessive overload, but it isn’t the sole factor. As such, the key to avoiding a state of overtraining is to not push these three systems to their limit and also doing what you can to facilitate their recovery…

Are You a Stimulus Addict?

If you’re reading everything you can about training and spend a good part of your day thinking about your workouts and how you can improve them, you’re likely a stimulus addict. You’re not alone!

A stimulus addict is someone who fell in love with the actual act of training and using his muscles not so much for the gains but for the feeling and sensation derived from the workout itself. For these guys, the training itself is its own reward. Being a stimulus addict has its pros. You’ll rarely lose motivation to train, you’ll stick to it over the long run, and you’ll never frown upon hard work.

However, you are the perfect candidate to train excessively, pushing yourself too hard, for too long, too often. A stimulus addict often prides himself on working harder than everybody else instead of getting better results than everybody else. As such, a stimulus addict is likely to become his own worst enemy – engaging in training practices that lead to stagnation (or even regression) and feeling like crap all the time.

Over-training or addiction?

Being a gym rat, you take your workouts seriously. But have you ever found yourself placing unreasonable demands on your body to the point of over-training?

Rest assured: If you’re logging five hours of hardcore gym time every week, you probably aren’t at risk of overtraining. But if you’re going longer than that, and training is becoming a borderline addiction even to the point of possible harm—it’s probably time to reassess your goals.

Sound familiar? It’s probably not a bad idea to double-check with a knowledgeable and experienced personal trainer who can quickly help you get your training back on track. Regardless, it’s crucial that you listen to your body and know the signs of overtraining. Here’s a list of 12 common symptoms you should constantly look out for.

1. Altered resting heart rate – Have you noticed those heart rate monitors some guys wear at the gym? Believe it or not, they can help determine if you’re overtraining or you can simply monitor your morning heart rate the old-fashioned way by measuring before you stand up to get out of bed and begin your day, If your resting heart rate is unusually high or low, you should probably talk to a doctor.

2. Insatiable thirst – Often have an unquenchable thirst? Are you starting to believe no matter what you drink, you’ll still crave more? If this happens to be coinciding with a period of increased gym time, there’s an excellent chance you’re overtraining. Here’s why: Your body might be in a catabolic state, meaning it’s starting to consume its own muscle for protein.

Being in a catabolic state naturally causes dehydration, the solution is simple: Drink plenty of water and get lots of sleep.

3. Extended muscle soreness – It’s normal to have sore muscles for a day or two after a workout. But if you’re still sore past the 72-hour mark, be sure to schedule a break and rest. This type of extended soreness is a sign your muscles aren’t recovering, which negatively impacts on your muscle-building efforts.

You should be able to get in a gym session—in and out—in 45 to 75 minutes max. You really don’t need to spend hour after hour each session.

4. Insomnia – Can’t sleep even though you’re wiping yourself out at the gym? focus more on getting your sleep, because this is where physical restoration occurs. your body grows while resting, not training, and people who might be overtraining need to eat a lot of clean food and take a week off training all together.

5. Depression – Exercise is typically good for your mental health—but if you’re overtraining, it could have the opposite effect. That’s not all; you might also suffer from “body image issues” and believe “the more you train, the better you’ll look.” To avoid overtraining, it’s important to know the real motives behind training. Set realistic short and long-term goals, create a plan, and stick to it.

6. Personality changes – Has your gym partner been noticeably absent lately? While overtraining is actually a “pretty rare” occurrence for most guys who train three to five hours per week, it’s possible for there to be an intensification of personality traits for guys prone to being “aggressive, irritable, or depressed.” However, these changes aren’t always the result of overtraining, as there are other factors that can overly stress the nervous system. Listen to your body and react accordingly.

7. Frequent sickness – Feeling ill isn’t part of a healthy lifestyle. In fact, sometimes it’s your body’s way of telling you your immune system is suffering from overtraining. The process of overtraining means your body is in a “continual catabolic state,” which lowers immunity and increases chances of becoming ill.

If you’re overtraining get rest, and reduce training and try adjusting diet, nutritional and supplement intake, and possibly implementing vitamins A and E, as well as glutamine.

8. Loss of concentration – Focus is critical. Unfortunately, sometimes people bring other stressors into the gym, or it becomes a social hour and your gym time expands considerably because you’re doing a set over here, then you’re talking for 10 minutes, then you’re going back and doing another set. That’s not how the body works when we’re trying to build muscle and lose fat, and it can definitely lead to overtraining or ineffective training altogether.

9. Increased injury – Getting injured more often? In particular, are you re-aggravating old injuries? If so, you may be overtraining. Why? when you over-train, your body doesn’t get enough time to recuperate between workouts meaning that at some point you begin training in a weakened state.

If you do this too often, you likely increase your chance of injuries. To prevent yourself from overtraining, try introducing forced rest periods into your routine, as well as changing training intensities or enjoying active recuperation sports—something low-intensity and completely different from weights and cardio.

10. Decreased motivation – It’s not unusual to occasionally want to skip a workout. But, if you generally live, breathe, and sleep the gym life, then suddenly become disinterested, you’re probably overexerting yourself, and possibly risking injury by going through the motions and improperly performing an exercise. Take a full week off, then reduce training volume when you do return. get quality sleep (7-9 hours per night as a generalization), proper nutrition is very important too.

11. Lowered self-esteem – For many guys, it’s natural to experience a sense of accomplishment following an intense workout. But when you get obsessed with training it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that “more is better.” That has two dangerous effects: Overtraining and lowered self-esteem.

This feeling is related to the body’s nervous system, since overtraining affects an athlete’s level of ‘happiness’ to train. Overtraining can be heightened by such things as lack of proper nutrition (hydration), proper sleep, and personal/work stressors.

12. Halted progress – Has your body stopped changing in spite of your best efforts? If so, you may be overtraining. When you’re overtraining, your body is going in the opposite direction of growth, because your muscles are torn and all you’re doing is re-tearing them again. Don’t risk possibly entering into a muscle-burning phase. Remember: Muscles need a chance to repair, and that’s only possible when your body is given the proper time to rest and recover before being forced into more exercise.

Summary

Being a gym rat can be tough. You train hard, harder than everybody else in the gym. So hard that you’re constantly sore, feel mentally drained for a good part of the day, and sometimes lack focus and get mood swings. Despite all this, the big gains aren’t coming.

Even more frustrating, a lot of people are progressing at a faster pace, and they’re not killing it like you are. What’s going on here? Simply put, don’t overdo it and get plenty of rest with good sleep and proper nutrition.

So, after reading this blog, are you doing too much and need to take a break every so often? Remember, it is ok to take a break occasionally!

Author: Nigel Taylor

I`m Nigel Taylor – originally from England – owner of The Backyard Gym in Round Rock Texas. We specialize in personal training, kickboxing cardio and self-defense. With over 25 years experience as a personal trainer, I know what works! From weight loss to bulking up to toning up, I can help you get your desired look and achieve your fitness goals. I can also offer you the privacy of a 100% private personal training studio in which to enjoy and get the most out of your workouts.