Since I became a regular Rosstraining forum member, the question about overtraining must have come up at least once a week on a new thread topic. I know a little about the topic since I've overtrained a few times in my life. I have one blanket answer for most people who ask if they've overtrained: If you have to ask, then you're not overtrained. More often than not, these people just need to back off a little, eat a good meal, and get a good night's rest. What they've done isn't overtraining.
In fact, there are some people who don't believe that there is such a thing as overtraining. I think it was the Barbarian Brothers who said that overtraining is simply not enough healthy food and not enough sleep. In other words, it's a symntom of not taking care of yourself properly outside of the gym. I'd love to think that they're right but many pro athletes live a different life and abide by different strength training protocols than we do. I've heard from such people that when you're trying to gain muscle mass, you need to sleep 8-10 hours a day in order to recover from the stress that you're putting on your body. That's a practical reality if all you have to do with is to train your body for a living. Most of us don't have that kind of luxury.
Perhaps all "overtraining" doesn't exist in some people's lives but for the majority of us who push our body past the limits of what 7 hours of sleep and 3,000 calorie diets can fix, overtraining is a grim reality. If you're still reading and wondering what overtraining is like, then I'll level with you: It feels like a seriously nasty case of the flu. It's goes beyond fatigue and it feels like sickness. Your body will pound with pain. You might feel nauseous. Your ability to focus or concentrate goes down the tubes. All you really feel like doing is sleeping. I'll give you tip when you feel like this: DON'T EVEN THINK OF EATING JUNK FOOD. I exascerbated a bad case of overtraining into the worst case of overtraining I've ever had by eating a delicious (but high salt, sugar and fat) Brazilian Churrascaria Barbeque brunch. I proceeded to go home, take a 5 hour nap, eating a lighter, healthier dinner, going to bed at 7:00 pm, and sleeping another 10 hours.
Don't take this a bragging. It's nothing to brag about. In fact, it's just plain stupid. It's not a sign of toughness or of dedication. It's just a sign of ignorance. When you overtrain, you're exceeding your body's ability to repair itself after training. Overtraining could be looked at as a case of self-induced muscle wasting.
Remember when you strength train, you're tearing down your muscles and forcing them to rebuild themselvess in a stronger manner. You have to do this incrimentally. You don't gain anything by exceeding the rate that your body can repair itself. Don't be fooled into thinking that you can ignore the need to eat well and rest. If you're ever going to get stronger, you need to train with your head as much as you train with your heart. My Brazilian Jui Jitsu teacher said something about a good training session that can easily apply to strength training as well: You should feel your training for no more than two hours after it's done. You should be able to function normally for the rest of the day. If all you want to do is nothing, then you've overdone it.