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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Corbin D.C

Over Training, Over Straining: How To Know If We Are Doing Too Much?

Updated: Dec 31, 2020

Tell a keen exercise enthusiast to ease off and you just might find some resistance. No one likes to be told they are doing too much. This can be when it comes to food, exercise, alcohol, pain killers, sleep and so on. Life should be about balance, doing things in the right proportions to optimise our health levels.

We need rest, some people believe this not to be true. The wrestler/movie star The Rock lives on about 3-5 hours sleep and has a work schedule so intense the average person would wear out in a few weeks. The Rock has been doing this for years, comfortably (seems to anyway). He has developed stamina, concentration and adapted over the years through hard work and dedication. I am not in love with the rock but sure am envious of his work ethic!

Man flexing muscles
Over Training, Over Straining: How To Know If We Are Doing Too Much?

When it comes to training, whether endurance, weight lifting or anything that requires us to move needs to be calibrated so we do not burn ourselves out. Hard core gym fanatics do not believe in ever stopping, no pain no gain, all about the gains, torture and sweat, blood and tears. I believe to get to a high level in anything then sacrifices are made. Unless you are a pro athlete, a genetic beast or have been training all of your life then really a bit of sensibility is a good call. Especially in the beginning.

Us and the human body is an adaptation machine, we adapt to our environment, what we eat, how we think, how we move and how we socialise. The only caveat is that it can take a little time.

Repetitive strain injuries are on the rise, repetitive injuries are self explanatory. Someone who keeps doing the same thing day in day out say for example kettle bells. Sometimes these injuries are from poor form but more often than not it is because they are just doing way to many of them. Or they have tried to up the weight too quickly where the tendons, ligaments, muscles and nervous system has not had time to catch up.

What are the signs and symptoms of over training?

Elevated heart rate:

A healthy resting heart rate is between 60-100 bpm. A pro athletes heart beat can be as low as 40 bpm. If you train regularly then knowing what is normal for you can be a good indicator of you over all health. If you notice your heart rate is higher than normal then it may be an indication of over training or sign that an illness such as a cold is on it’s way.

Mood changes:

Everyone will have changes in there mood. The good, the bad and the ugly of life. Over training releases more of the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol can wreak havoc on our emotions. If you are feeling down, exhausted all of the time and generally feeling fatigued, you might be over training and some steps need to be taken to combat this issue. Having enough good salts, electrolytes, protein and carbs are essential in building the body back up before and after training.

Sleep disturbance:

Worked out hard? Had your protein shake? Tucked up in bed ready for a nice snooze? Think again, a really big sign of over training is insomnia. Again this is linked to hormones passing through your system creating mood changes and many other issues from over training. Avoid training at night time and avoid eating too late too. Sleep is for regeneration, if the body is focusing on breaking down that 5lb steak you just ate then you are not going to have a restful sleep and will wake up just as tired as when you went to sleep. Read up on sleep hygiene as well.


It’s said that 70% of training and getting great results is through diet. What we put in has a direct effect on energy, well-being and hydration levels. Simply not giving ourselves the right nutrition is a direct line into exhaustion. We can eat too little or too much at the wrong and right times. It is recommended to have a good portion of protein and complex carbohydrates 40 minutes before working out to fuel the movement and help your heart pump blood around the body. It is also recommended to do the same 30 mins post workout to replace salts and other essential minerals that we have burnt off or sweated out. Sweating is great but we have to replace, replace, replace.

Aching muscles:

Having a post exercise ache is common, it does not always mean you have done the best workout but it happens to most people. But if you are aching 72 hours after the workout then oops you have done too much and your muscles are fighting back. You have far exceeded your capacity and now suffering the consequences. This often happens when you have had a break from the gym and tried to do the same amount as a few weeks ago. I have done it, I know many people that have done it and for some reason we still do it time and again. We want to play catch up, “well I did it before so I can do it again”. Yes we can but it does set us up for injury and days of pain. If this does happen keep moving, warm the muscles up before stretching and get some good nutrition inside you.

Increased injuries:

If you find you are getting more niggle or niggles are not clearing up then your body might be screaming at you to slow down and have a rest. Having a rest is OK! It is not the end of the world you can do it again when you have recovered. Meet friends, start a new hobby, Have a holiday. Chances are it will only get worse without rest.

Kermit the frog holding his head
Over Training, Over Straining: How To Know If We Are Doing Too Much?

Not making gains:

Arnie did not build his body over night. It took years and years of pumping iron. He made gains, small gains over time that equated to big gains. This is normal. As we progress the muscles have to adapt so they get bigger. Getting bigger requires the hard work but also the rest and recovery and nutrition to to do it in a healthy way. If you are trying you best and getting no where, it’s likely your body needs a rest. Train smart, go back when the time is right and those gains will be giving you a pat on your back.

In summery, we need to train sensibly, when we get to a high level the body can really take an awful lot. A beginner or novice will not adapt the same so training even smarter is essential. For me training smart is fun and in fact requires less work. Juggling being a chiropractor in Cardiff and everything else can leave time a little tight. 4 sessions a weeks is all I need for what I want which is health. We all have different goals and each goal needs to be adapted to. So if you are feeling burnt out after 6 months of intense training then it is not surprising is it?

Till next time!

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