If you’re like most fit dudes, you’re determined to push yourself to your limits—and then smash through them on your way to a fitter, more powerful physique. But as any veteran weightlifter or marathoner will tell you, there’s definitely a point when training too often (or with too much intensity) will grind your gains to a halt, zap your muscle power, and evaporate your drive. It’s called overtraining, and it affects the best of us.
So how can you tell when you’re overtraining, especially when your gym buddy is screaming at you to do another rep because you “just need to suck it up“? Simple: Trust your instincts.
Athletes are better at predicting whether they’re overtraining just by judging their own sense of well-being, compared to objective measures of their exertion like heart rate or oxygen consumption, according to an Australian research review published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
The Aussie researchers looked at 56 studies, focusing on athletes who endured both “acute training loads” (tracked over a short period of time) and “chronic training loads” (tracked over a longer period of time). They then compared how the athletes subjectively rated their well-being (e.g. mood and perceived stress) against objective measures of their well-being (e.g. blood markers, heart rate, and oxygen consumption). The researchers found that athletes’ own subjective sense of well-being more closely mirrored their training loads than even their biochemistry.
So what’s that mean for the average gym-going dude? Know thyself. You’re a better judge of how you can handle a workout than your gym buddies or your trainer, so if you feel like you’re revving too high, don’t be afraid to throw in the towel. Overtraining leads to injury and burnout, and that’s anything but productive.