Fitness trainers like Jillian Michaels have been heard to say "If you want your body to change, you've got to put stress on it!" While this is true, how much stress we put on our body over time can create adverse, unwanted effects.

Overtraining syndrome is a little-talked about major concern among fitness enthusiasts. Over time hard-core training can become a detriment instead of an asset. Sure you'll have developed the muscles for the task but if you don't rest, eventually your body will force you to rest.

Thanks to The Biggest Loser, "just do it" and other athletic slogans, so many get it wrong when it comes to fitness and how it pertains to overall health. They view hard core training as something positive and healthy -- a welcomed form of stress used to build the body. What they aren't realizing is every activity the body is put through is a stressor (i.e., eating, exercising, breathing). Your amazing human body adapts by continually strengthening, until it simply can't anymore.

Rest heals both the human and animal body. Your amazing body is a self-healing, self-eliminating marvel. It adjusts to anything you do to it, but it has a tipping point. Couple heavy training with a diet too high in animal protein, processed energy bars, shakes and other junk that commercial diet plans likeNutrisystem, Slimfast, Atkins and Weight Watchers recommend and you've got a physiological time bomb. 

Let's look at the unseen ways you stress your body:

Physiological stress - Training is only twenty percent of the overall health equation. Nutrition is eighty percent. How and what you eat stresses your organs. Poor diet, overeating, diets high in animal protein, synthetic protein bars, and shakes, and GMOs are stressors of the digestive tract. It takes the body twice the time to process these foods than it does nature's foods. That being said, poor digestion is a major cause of stress on the human body. Couple that with constipation, emotional stress or an overly ambitious workout regimen and you're headed for a crash.  Lack of sleep is another damaging form of physiological stress caused primarily by overeating and poor diet, and has been proven to negatively impact health. 

Emotional stress - Work stress, money stress, relationship stress, job stress, life stress -- emotional stress adds to the stress burden on the body and affects the human body at a cellular level. Add chronic negative thinking and anger and you've got healthy cell killers.

Environmental toxins - If you've read the AutoImmune Epidemic then you're familiar with the ways our bodies work against our toxic environment everyday, in everything from soaps and shampoos to carpets, furniture and the air that we breathe. When this toxic stress response occurs continually, or is triggered by multiple sources, it can have a cumulative toll on physical and mental health—for a lifetime. 

Overtraining symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Joint pain
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Decreased immunity (increased number of colds, and sore throats)
  • Decrease desire to train 
  • Moodiness and irritability
  • Depression
  • Increased incidence of injuries.

The advice to train less and secure adequate rest is no invitation to become a couch potato. Here are some sane training alternatives that keep overall stress lower and are effective in maintaining muscle tone:

  • Yoga
  • Tai Chi
  • Walking
  • Stretching
  • Swimming
  • Basic Calisthenics