Less is more: how to avoid overtraining

Too much of a good thing can be not-so-great - and working out is no exception!

When applied correctly, exercise is a great tool to improve both physical and mental health, help you achieve body composition goals and become stronger!

It’s also true that unfortunately, many people do not exercise nearly enough to reap these benefits.

However, there’s also the other end of the spectrum, where we get bombarded by messages such as “no pain no gain”, “go hard or go home”, and “just do it”, no matter how tired or overwhelmed you are. In fitness circles, working out for hours on end, skipping rest days or pushing yourself to your absolute limits every single day is often validated - after all, the more you do, the better, right?..

We have started noticing these patterns upon introducing the new Workout Planner feature, allowing our BBR Queens to customise their workouts. Soon enough, we have started seeing screenshots of default programming turned into something like this:

We have also been receiving lots of emails and messages asking how much exercise one must add on top of their pre-planned workouts to boost results. 

While we really love seeing our girls working hard towards their goals, 3-hour long training sessions is really not what we had in mind! So today, we really wanted to have a chat about why exercising too much can be detrimental for your progress, as well as provide tips on training better, not more!

Overtraining, explained

If you’re someone exercising regularly, ask yourself:

  • Have you been incredibly sore lately, particularly experiencing one-sided soreness?
  • Do workouts take up a very large chunk of your time 5-6 times a week (unless you’re a professional athlete)?
  • Do you find yourself dreading workouts as opposed to looking forward to an energising sweat sesh?

If any of those are true, you may be overtraining - meaning your body may be under too much stress from your current exercise routine.

While any exercise is technically a stressor, when performed in appropriate amounts, this stress tends to be “good” - promoting adaptation, improved endurance and muscle growth. However, if you’re exercising too much, too intensely, or both, the body doesn’t get any chance to repair and recover, and the next time you train, you’re basically wearing yourself out even further.

Hence, other common signs of overtraining appear, such as:

  • Decreased performance - even though you keep training and applying progressive overload, your results don’t get any better. On the contrary, you find yourself not being able to lift as much, push as hard, etc.
  • Tiredness and fatigue - on top of performance decrements, you may also experience weird tiredness, despite supposedly maintaining a healthy routine
  • Irritability and mood swings - with even the littlest inconveniences suddenly becoming a huge deal.
  • Sleep problems - even if you spend 7-8 hours in bed, you may not feel rested and experience troubles falling asleep, frequent wakings or even nightmares. 
  • Reduced appetite - often manifesting as a general loss of interest in foods, even your favourite treats.
  • Frequent injuries - which often include sprains, strains and back aches, even when working with loads that you consider light to moderate. 
  • ...and more.

Effects of overtraining can also be detrimental to your body composition goals - you will find it incredibly difficult to achieve any change, being that reducing body fat % or gaining muscle. This can cause a sudden plateau that you can’t seem to overcome - and a frequent reaction to this is even more exercise, which only worsens the situation. 

And even if you’re yet to experience the signs above - trust us, you will, if you don’t optimise your training! Below are some tips to help you achieve that.

Don’t train more - train better

Ladies, remember - unless you’re an athlete undergoing training for a specific event, you really DON’T need to exercise for hours on end to achieve your goals!

Instead of training more, we would much prefer you to train better. This can be achieved by:

  • Increasing your training volume gradually, if such an increase is required. For example, if you’re completely new to training, start with 3-4 sessions a week, max, before jumping into a full 5-6 day split. You can still stay active on your rest days - just opt for low impact activities, such as a long walk or social sports.
  • Adjusting the number of training sessions to suit your lifestyle. If you’re someone who works a really active job or has to endure long shifts regularly, 6 sessions per week may not be a realistic expectation - and it’s completely fine. Remember, you can actually DROP sessions in that Workout Planner, too - they will turn into Active Rest Days!
  • Focusing on the main workout that’s programmed into your training. Sis, trust us - you don’t need 5 activation circuits, a double full body session and 2 extra sets of core exercises to accompany your workouts! This just tires you up and takes way too much time without giving you an opportunity to focus on that main workout block. 
Taking BBR workouts as an example, the following is OK: add a warm-up if there’s none already; add 1 extra dedicated core circuit a week (2 if you really want to - but avoid training core on 2 consecutive days unless that’s something specifically recommended in your program); add a dedicated stretching sequence at the end as you cool-down; add an occasional finisher where not recommended already. It’s also fine to SWAP your main workout for a different one - depending on equipment and time you have available, as well as your goals. Anything other than that is likely too much! You really need to give the main workout your ALL! Challenge yourself, as opposed to going through the motions or conserving energy for your finisher circuit. There’s a reason most finishers are marked “optional” - we don’t expect you to be able to do them every time, as you can already feel like jelly after the main portion of your training!
  • Completing your workout at a time of the day that works best for your body. While many people prefer exercising in the morning, others find that it completely wears them down - and vice versa. Do what works best for you!
  • Addressing any signs indicating your body may require extra rest. From a lighter workout to a complete break, there are several options when it comes to letting your body regroup and recover
  • And while we’re at it - rest days are NOT optional! Have at least one a week to avoid lasting negative effects. 

Conclusion

Always remember: the aim of your health and fitness journey is looking after yourself. Overdoing it to the point of feeling physically ill for days on end certainly isn’t self-care! 

Keep pushing hard - but remember that sometimes, less is more, so long as it’s done better!

Much love,

Rach and Team BBR

xx