We've talked about physical signs of overtraining a lot. But there are also many ways how your psychology lets you know that you're pushing yourself too far.
Just like with physical signs, you probably ignore your psychological signs too for a while before taking action… I know I sure did!
Overtraining may not affect only the person who is overtraining but also those around them… We don't live in isolation, so we want it or not, our friends, family members and other loved ones are affected as well when we are grumpy, irritable and depressed.
Think about it, have you been acting bitchy around your loved ones? I know I used to at times!
Overtraining can cause not only physical and physiological, but also psychological symptoms. Here's what you may experience…
4 Psychological Signs of Overtraining
Sign #1: You Feel Lethargic and Have Lost Your Motivation to Work Out
One of the things that you may experience as you're overtraining, is feeling super lethargic so that you can barely get yourself out of the door and working out. If working out has always been super fun for you and now you don't feel the same way anymore, it's alarming and concerning. You may wonder, why are you feeling this way! Because movement has been your source of endorphins and fun!
If you're really over trained, it's getting harder and harder to get yourself to the gym, running or whatever your activity is. You likely do it anyway because you're simply forcing yourself (and because you're perfectionist, am I right?), but it doesn't come easy and isn't as enjoyable as it used to be.
I used to look forward to most of my workouts, but the very last months before I started my recovery a year ago, everything got harder and harder. I had never felt like I don't want to go to work out, but that's exactly how I felt right now. I tried to motivate myself by joining group fitness classes which helped for a bit, but not for too long. I was getting so exhausted both physically and mentally that I had no other choice than take a break.
If you're experiencing lack of workout motivation too, then check in with yourself and ask if you may have pushed yourself too far.
Sign #2: You Have Hard Time Focusing
Most people's attention span has shortened nowadays… All the million distractions that we have under our fingertips 24/7 make focusing harder and harder.
However, if you're overtrained, lack of ability to focus becomes even bigger problem.
Are you trying to read a book, but your mind goes wandering all the time?
Do you feel the need to do multiple things at once, because nothing can keep you engaged long enough to actually finish it?
Whatever you start, you can't complete it…
The problem is that if you're working out a lot, your sympathetic nervous system is activated more often than it would if you didn't train as hard. When we work out, our heart rate rises, our blood pressure increases and we breath faster and harder — all that means that our sympathetic nervous system is activated. That's all normal, but when we train a lot, switching back to parasympathetic mode — the one that allows you to breath slowly, brings your heart rate down, and allows you to focus — is much harder to do.
I remember having incredibly hard time focusing when I was running 6 days a week, at least an hour every day. And I was trying to write my PhD… Try to read super complicated articles in foreign language when you simply can't focus on anything!
One thing that can help to get you out of this sympathetic nervous system overdrive is starting to practice stillness, breathing and meditation. It has to become a daily habit! And of course, stop working out as intensely and as often, so you can bring your body to that calm and relaxed, parasympathetic state more often.
Sign #3: You're Moody & Irritable
Oh, poor people around us… We aren't the only ones suffering from our overtraining, because our loved ones get their part too when we become incredibly moody.
Sure, working out can make us feel good. When we work out, our endocrine system releases endorphins and other feel-good hormones. That's when we're taking about runner's high!
But during exercise, we also release cortisol. If we work out in right amounts, endorphins offset cortisol so we feel awesome. But when we do too much, that's not what ends up happening. Working out too much can cause excess cortisol output and as a result, mood swings, irritability and grumpiness. That's especially true after long, over an hour lasting workouts.
When our cortisol is constantly up, everything is irritating, right?
Even the smallest thing can seem huge to us.
Maybe we didn't get our run in one day, so we make a big deal out of it and keep complaining.
Maybe we're invited to a friend's house but there's nothing to eat that would fit to our diet, so we act like it's the end of the world. How come they don't understand that this stuff is not healthy and why isn't there anything better to eat???
I am absolutely done this and I can count more than I would like the times when I've been a total bitch about my food!
If you're overtraining, your sleep is probably a mess too. Not sleeping enough means that your body never gets the chance to heal fully. If you don't rest and recover, you get irritable and snap at people… And later feel embarrassed and wish you never acted that stupid!
Sign #4: You're Depressed
As a combination of first three points, plus physical signs like soreness, exhaustion overtraining can make you really depressed. You may feel like despite all the things you do, you are still not enough! Not skinny, lean, desirable enough…
You have lost your workout motivation but have no idea why; you feel like you don't even know yourself and may think that you don't have enough willpower to get your butt to the gym.
You can't focus on your job, school, projects, relationships… and it makes you feel horrible. No matter what you start, you don't seem to be able to finish it. Especially if you are a perfectionist, as many of those who overtrain are, you hate yourself for not getting your things done.
You are moody and irritable, no matter what people around you do… You can't explain it and feel guilty and horrible for hurting people around you.
All these things contribute to developing depression, something that I too struggled with many years. Other factors that contributed to it were a job that didn't enjoy and being in a relationship that was very wrong for me. But overtraining played a role in my depression as well.
Although woking out offered a short time solution — I usually felt better immediately after a long run — endorphins wore off soon. I was back to eating nearly nothing, feeling tired and had no energy or ideas what to do about my messed up personal and professional life. Running didn't help me to run away from my problems.
Overtraining can absolutely cause you psychological symptoms. It's not always the case that working out makes you happier and healthier person. It does when done in right amounts but doing too much will lead to negative side effects.
If you're working out hard, have you experienced irritability, hard time focusing, and loss of motivation?
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