By William Imbo
I’m all for being gung-ho with CrossFit. When I signed up for my first 3-month membership a couple of years ago, I was in the box as much as humanly possible. Those first few weeks/months of CrossFit are the honeymoon stage for many newbies, but it can carry on for seasoned vets as well. However, there are risks of spending every day of the week in the gym. Aside from getting mentally burnt out from CrossFit, there are a number of physical signs that should convince you that it’s time for a break from the barbells.
1. You’re feeling ill far more often
Nagging coughs, headaches and sore throats can all come about from a combination of factors that include poor diet, lack of sleep and exercise and stress. But if this isn’t the case for you, the uptake in nagging ailments is likely due to you working out too often. Doing so taxes the immune system, making it more difficult for the body to ward off infections.
2. Insomnia or restless sleep
Sleep is a crucial time for your health, as this is when the body is resting and literally repairing itself from the day’s activities. And in case you didn’t know, good, consistent sleep promotes the boost of growth hormones, which are important for rebuilding muscle fibers. But if you are working out too hard and too often, your body can remain stimulated for a longer period of time, causing you to be restless and breaking up your normal sleeping pattern.
3. Elevated resting heart rate
It’s important that you know what your normal resting heart rate is, because if it starts to become elevated it could be a sign of stress. An altered resting heart rate comes about through an increased metabolic rate, which speeds up your heart in order to move more oxygen to the muscles and the brain in order to deal with the level of training you’re undergoing. Furthermore, people who overtrain will find that it takes longer for their heart rate to return to normal after a workout. Your body won’t know the difference between physical and psychological stress, so it’s important to take a break from the demands of both.
4. Insatiable thirst
It’s normal to crave some H20 following a hard WOD or if you’re spending a day in the sun, but when this craving starts to coincide with a period of increased time at the box, it’s a potential sign of overtraining, which causes the body to be in a catabolic state. And yes, you guessed it—being in a catabolic state naturally causes dehydration, and thirst is one of the first signs of it. So make sure you are getting an adequate daily water intake, as well as rest.
5. Your urine is dark yellow
This is another rather unpleasant indicator of dehydration—unless you ingested some interesting foods or supplements the night before. The dark color of your urine is a sign that your body is struggling to retain fluids because there’s not enough H20 to go around.
6. Chronic/Nagging muscle aches, joint pain and injury increase
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that you start to feel sore (and worse, hurt yourself) if you are spending every day throwing heavy weight around and putting your body through the ringer. This may sometimes be related to DOMS (Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness), but if it’s continuing for more than 72 hours, it’s a bigger problem. When you overtrain, you’re limiting the amount of time your body has to recuperate between workouts, which will eventually lead to you training in a weakened state. In addition to putting additional strain on your muscles and joints, the big risk here is that you quickly become more likely to sustain an injury. Try to incorporate forced rest periods, and take more active recovery rest days.
7. Poor workout performance
If you’re starting to struggle with weights, WODS and times that you would normally crush, you’re experiencing regression in your athletic performance. This is one of the more obvious signs that you are simply overtraining your body.
8. You feel upset and annoyed during and after class
We’ve all experienced the post-WOD highs of CrossFit, where the heavy rush of endorphins makes you feel alive and gives you a big smile for the rest of the day. That’s how you’re supposed to feel. Exercise should elevate your mood, not lower it. When your body becomes overwhelmed from training, it produces hormones like cortisol that can cause anxiety. In addition, the stress that coincides with overtraining impedes chemicals like dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain that can severely lower your mood when depleted. All of this points to a lack of time given to your body to recover.
9. Loss of appetite
Have you heard of epinephrine and norepinephrine? Of course you haven’t. I bring them up because these two suckers are hormones that tend to inhibit your appetite—and overtraining can cause an increase in them. On top of that, the physical exhaustion and stress that come with overtraining can also have the same effect.
10. Losing lean muscle mass
Unfortunately, losing fat isn’t as straightforward as simply burning more calories through increased work output. In fact, when you overtrain, you’re creating an imbalance in your hormones. A positive testosterone:cortisol ratio generally means more muscle and less fat, but when you spend too much time training your testosterone levels drop while your cortisol levels rise, which causes catabolism (the breakdown of muscle tissue), and increases insulin resistance and fat deposition. The end result is that despite an increase in your weekly workouts and the close monitoring of your diet, you still see the pounds add up and your definition decrease.