SOUND MIND, SOUND BODY: Overtraining: two steps forward, three back

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You wake up in the morning and decide that today you are going to double your workout efforts.

You keep up your new routine for a several weeks, but you aren't seeing much improvement and you don't feel as energized as you used to after your workouts.

What could you possibly be doing wrong? If a little bit of exercise (what you were previously doing) is good for your body, then more (what you are doing now) is definitely better, right?

This is not necessarily true. More exercise can actually lead to declines in physical conditioning and can be harmful for your body.

Every person is different as to how much exercise is too much. Some people can work out several hours a day without any problems, for others an extra class or work out during the day may be too much for their body.

How do you know if what you're doing is too much?

Overtraining can become a serious health issue if not addressed early.

It is important to be able to recognize the signs associated with overtraining. These can include: decreased performance, headaches, problems with sleeping, loss of appetite and loss of coordination.

Psychological signs can also appear with overtraining. These include: depression, apathy, problems concentrating and reduced self-esteem.

Overtraining typically occurs when there is an increase in intense training without a proper recovery.

With an increase in exercise intensity a person will tire out more quickly, but this increase should also lead to physical fitness increases.

It is actually while the body is recovering that most of the fitness gains happen. If proper recovery time is not taken, the body becomes overworked, straining several body systems.

It is the strain to these systems that causes the signs of overtraining. According to the American College of Sports Medicine as few as 10 days of increased training can lead to overtraining syndrome.

Treatment for overtraining is rest. This will be different for different people, it could include cross training, taking breaks during intense training or having a rest day after an intense training session.

For others rest may mean taking several days to several weeks off to let the body recover.

How do you prevent overtraining? Moderation.

When starting an exercise program start out slow, let your body adjust to the new training and allow time for recovery.

If you are a seasoned exerciser and are looking to increase your exercise intensity, it is the same principle? Make the changes slowly and plan recovery time into your workout.

Valerie Rankin has been working in the fitness industry since 1998. She has a bachelor's degree in health education and fitness promotion. She is the group exercise director at the YMCA, where she manages and instructs fitness classes.

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