In a time when obesity rates go up every year and product manufacturers keep coming up with more products that keep us from having to move our bodies, it doesn't seem like there could be such a thing as too much exercise. However, there is. Overtraining, also known as overtraining syndrome, happens when you work out so much, you make yourself sick. Fortunately, with a little information, you can enjoy your workouts without doing yourself more harm than good.
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To gain strength, build muscle mass and improve athletic performance, your body requires two things: exertion and rest. Overtraining happens when you don't give your body enough time to recover from exercise.. While the amount of rest you need depends on your fitness level, most people can't exercise for more than 90 minutes without eating. Doing so causes the muscles to start breaking down, burning their own protein stores for fuel.
Anyone who exercises can occasionally exercise too much. However, overtraining syndrome occurs most often among professional athletes and those training for long, high-intensity athletic events, such as a marathon or triathlon. Those most at risk for overtaining syndrome are those who feel compelled to exercise, sense they are working out too much, yet rationalize their actions.
Symptoms of Overtraining Syndrome
The most common overtraining symptoms include unexplained decreased athletic performance, excessive fatigue, irritability, insomnia, increased susceptibility to colds, flu and other respiratory infections, failure of your heart rate to return to normal after exercise, and -- for women -- disruption in the menstrual cycle, including irregular cycles and absence of periods.
When to Seek Help
If you've simply gotten over-enthusiastic with your exercise routine, rest may be all you need. However, if you feel compelled to exercise, feel guilty of you don't, or if your exercise routine is interfering with your work, friendships, or family life, you may want to seek professional mental health. Overtraining and exercise disorders are compulsions. similar to eating disorders.