9 Signs You're OVER Training

If a little exercise is good for you, more must be better, right? Yes, but only up to a point. When it comes to exercise volume, most people do too little or not enough intensive exercise to cause transformation. Others get a “gung-ho” attitude and push themselves to a point where they are actually working out too much which is causing negative effects on the body. This point can be reached by one or both of the following two ways:

  • Too much exercise without enough recovery

  • Improper/not enough nutrient intake (under fueling)

This tipping point is known as overtraining syndrome (OTS) and, in short, leads to a decrement in fitness level and possibly injury. Whether you are male or female, you are equally at risk for OTS, so recognizing the early signs and combating them can prevent detrimental fitness and health outcomes. Here are nine signs of overtraining to look out for:

1. Decreased performance.

The telltale sign of overtraining is a lack of improved performance, despite an increase in training intensity or volume. Decreased agility, strength and endurance, such as slower reaction times and reduced running speeds are all common signs of overtraining. If you feel like you’re working out, but seem to be moving backwards, and not forwards in your progress, overtraining is a likely culprit.

2. Increased perceived effort during workouts.

Not only can overtraining decrease performance, it can also make seemingly effortless workouts feel unusually difficult. A clear sign of this is an abnormally elevated heart rate during exercise or throughout the day. If you are experiencing OTS, you may find that it takes longer for your heart rate to return to normal after a workout.

3. Excessive fatigue.

Fatigue will accumulate in a body that never has a chance to fully recover from previous workouts. A good workout should leave you feeling tired, but after a proper period of time you’re rejuvenated and ready to tackle the next one. Further, chronic, negative energy expenditure leads to something called “low energy availability,” which means that the body is consistently pulling from its own energy stores (carbs, protein, fat). This can be the result of too much training or too little fueling.

4. Agitation and moodiness.

Overtraining significantly affects your stress hormones, including cortisol and epinephrine. This hormonal imbalance can cause mood swings, unusual irritability and an inability to concentrate. Also if you suddenly go from looking forward to working out to loathing the thought of putting in any effort at the gym, chances are you’re suffering from this.

5. Insomnia or restless sleep.

Sleep ideally provides the body time to rest and repair itself. But overproduction of stress hormones, as mentioned above, may not allow you to wind down or completely relax, making sleep much less effective (which compounds chronic fatigue and moodiness). If you suddenly can’t fall asleep or find yourself waking up during the night where there wasn’t a problem before look at your recent training load.

6. Loss of appetite.

A hormone imbalance can also affect hunger and satiety mechanisms. More training should stimulate more appetite, but the physiological exhaustion of OTS can actually lead to appetite suppression.

7. Chronic or nagging injuries.

Overused muscles and joints can cause constant aches or joint pain. Pain that does not subside in two weeks (or so) should be considered a notable injury. Overtraining taxes all of the body's systems. Proper rest and recovery between sessions is vital for the body to repair itself. It’s natural to feel sore for the first couple of weeks after starting an exercise routine after not working out for a long time. That should subside to “good sore” after workouts lasting 48 hours or so. If chronic pain becomes and issue your body probably isn’t being given time to repair and a break is highly needed.

8. Metabolic imbalances.

Long-term low energy availability may lead to nutrient deficiencies, such as iron deficiency anemia, which have the potential to harm both health and performance. Medical complications can also involve the cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, endocrine, nervous or reproductive systems (e.g., menstrual cycle disturbances in women).

9. Psychological stress and/or depression.

Some people live for punishing workouts and grueling competitions. If this sounds like you, the inability to train or race (combined with an imbalance of hormones and lack of quality sleep) can significantly affect your psyche.

If you recognize these signs of overtraining in yourself, seek the help of a physician or other health professional to seek help.

A better approach is to follow a periodized training program that includes both active recovery and complete rest. Rest can be frustrating, but recognize that a day or two spent on the foam roller is better than a day or two in a hospital bed. Recovery today not only allows for greater production tomorrow, but likely fewer missed training days over the next few months.

In Summary

Overtraining can be more damaging at slowing your progress on your fitness journey than undertraining. Remember, you can always up your intensity, but once you’ve over-stressed something, all you can do is stop and let it heal. Talk to your physician if you think you’ve fallen into overtraining syndrome, and remember working with a certified personal trainer can help make sure you keep your training loads in a safe range.

As always, reach out with any questions, feel free to leave a comment, like my page on Facebook www.facebook.com/wevolvepersonaltraining and remember:

Together, WEvolve.