While pushing your body to run, swim or cycle hard with little short-term rest can boost your levels of physical fitness and energy initially, grinding yourself into the ground can mean trouble for both your body and mind in the long-term. Hard work can build you up, but over training and a lack of rest can tear you down, even if you're not a professional athlete. A nasty virus or a change in mood are just the start of many issues that you may encounter.
A Bad Case of the Blues
Putting your body under stress without giving yourself time to recover can lead to physical and psychological problems that will be hard to recover from. Behavioral and emotional problems may develop. You’ll become easily irritated, suffer from altered sleep patterns and, in extreme cases, succumb to depression. (ref 2, page 353). You may lose the desire to compete and your enthusiasm for exercise will fall rapidly. (ref 2, page 352)
Grinding Down Your Body
The most common physical symptom of over training initially is mild fatigue, burnout or complete exhaustion. Without allowing time for your body to repair itself, you could suffer from persistently sore muscles and frequent injuries. You may lose your appetite and experience unhealthy weight loss because of this (ref 2, page 353). Decreased levels of testosterone in men can result in an inability to maintain and build muscle mass. Women can suffer from a drop in estrogen leading to reproductive problems. (ref 2, page 352)
Immunity Under Sustained Attack
Over training can lead to an increasing possibility of contracting viral illnesses (ref 2, page 352) and bacterial infections. Upper respiratory tract infections such as tonsillitis, laryngitis and the common cold may be particularly hard to avoid (ref 1, page 6). Injuries such as bone fractures and tendinitis can occur with regularity (ref 2, page 352). Your heart could come under stress as over training can raise your resting heart rate and produce a spike or drop in blood pressure (ref 2, page 352) depending on the type of exercise you’ve been overdoing.
On the Road to Recovery
The only way to recover from overtraining is to get plenty of rest. This may mean a big reduction in your physical activities or even a complete break from exercise (ref 2, page 353). Psychological recovery may involve a change in routines or workouts along with scheduled breaks between sessions (ref 2, page 354). Periods of mentally running though training sessions using visualisation techniques to help you improve your performance can also be substituted for physical workouts (ref 2, page 354). You can ease back into some cardio exercise by taking a brisk walk or bike ride. Aim to hit 50 percent of your maximum heart rate.