When to Worry About (The Harlem Shake) Overtraining

Before I go anywhere with this post, I just want to ask one simple question: what is the deal with the "Harlem Shake?"

I like to think that I appreciate internet humor as much as the next person....but, where did it come from?  Why for 30 long seconds does everything get really, really weird?  And, more importantly, is this something we have to worry about for much longer?

If you have absolutely no idea what I'm talking about, here are the members of the Miami Heat performing their own version (my favorite character being the "horse-tronaut" in the background):

With that off my chest, I wanted to talk about one topic that seems to bug me: the fear of overtraining.

Overtraining is a funny topic in fitness - those that worry about it are those that probably shouldn't, and those that don't worry about it probably should.  Of course, there's no hard science to back up these claims, it's just a trend that I've noticed.

I often talk about how the less you do in the gym, the more gains you're going to realize.  However, you do need to use a bit of common sense.  If all you do is stretch and hop on a treadmill for 15 minutes, you're not going to see much improvement.  On the other hand, if you run for 3 miles, lift weights for 45 minutes, then hop back on some "cardio," you're wasting your time and cutting portions out will do you some good.  Unfortunately, most people gravitate closer towards the former example, rather than the latter.

If you're waking up in the mornings and feeling like this, you probably should take a day off....or four.

If you're waking up in the mornings and feeling like this, you probably should take a day off....or four.

If you're someone that HAS been training hard for the past few months, how can you tell if you're overtraining?  Well, it's actually pretty simple, and here are the two questions I tell everyone to ask themselves:

  • How do you FEEL? Are you dreading your workouts?  If your body just doesn't feel right, pare it back for a few days and see you how feel.  
  • What's your resting heart rate?  Of course, to answer this question you need to take your rest heart rate (the best time is when you wake up, before you get out of bed in the morning). Take subsequent measurements of your heart rate every week.  If your resting heart rate is 10 beats per minute above your baseline measurement when you're simply laying in bed, then you may want to take the day off and let your body recover.

Yes, it's really that simple.  If you've been training hard, and can't stomach a visit to the gym, then take a day off.  You don't need to feel guilty, and that day off may be what you need.