Anyone who participates in regular, intense exercise is at risk for overtraining syndrome. In overtraining syndrome, ones training outpaces their rest and recovery. The body can’t sustain this indefinitely and will let your know it; you just have to be paying attention.

There are certain common signs and symptoms of overtraining. These include: recurring minor illnesses (colds, flues), difficulty sleeping, increases or decreases in appetite and a negative change in overall mood. Additionally, it isn’t uncommon to experience general fatigue, inability to concentrate, irritability, and loss of motivation. Physiologic problems such as nausea, diarrhea, changes in bowel habits, and an increased resting heart rate may also result. Sounds great, right?

Overtraining doesn’t happen overnight, but can happen in as little as 10 days and usually occurs after a change in training habits. For athletes, this can be a sudden increase in intensity or frequency of practices. For the rest of us, this often accompanies the beginning of a new, intense regimen. It’s important to take care to give yourself adequate rest and recuperation time after workouts and to make sure you’re properly supporting your body through nutrition.

If you feel any or all of these symptoms coming on, the first step is to consult a physician. These symptoms could be indicative of a larger problem. Diagnosis of overtraining syndrome is a process of elimination. If they can’t find anything else wrong with you to explain your symptoms, you may have overtraining syndrome. Treatment consists of hydration, balanced nutrition and, most importantly, rest. Rest your body for a minimum of 2-3 days. In many cases, a week or several weeks of rest may be called for. Athletes and fitness fanatics often have difficulty with the idea of taking extra rest. But mark my words, your body will thank you for it and you’ll feel like a super-star when you return to training.

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