What Is Overtraining: Learn How To Recognize & Avoid It

In the following article we will review what overtraining is, what the signs are, how to spot it, and how to avoid overtraining.

Overtraining is an all too popular trend with bodybuilders and other high intensity training athletes such as swimmers, and long distance runners. In the following article we will review what overtraining is, what signs present themselves, and how to spot, and avoid overtraining.


Overtraining is all too present in today's gyms. Those who live high stress lifestyles and overachievers always seem to find their way into the gym. You've seen it yourself. It is the one guy in the corner of the gym doing his high intensity, 4 hour, full body workout for the 13th time this week.

You know him, he was there when you left yesterday and has a small blanket tucked under the bench press for when he sleeps in the gym. Another way to pick him out is to look for the guy that is always there but never changes. If you don't know who it is... It may be you! Here are some ways to identify overtraining in yourself:

  • A plateau in performance.
  • A drop in performance.
  • Elevated Resting HR (an easy way to measure this is to take your resting HR when you first awaken and compare it from week to week).
  • Elevated Training HR (if you know at level 6 on the treadmill you normally have a heart rate of 120 bpm, and lately has been measuring 150 bpm, something may be wrong).
  • Feeling of "heaviness."
  • Ongoing muscle soreness (chronic).
  • A desire to skip workouts (your body is telling you something and you should listen).
  • Lack of enthusiasm when it comes to both the gym and everyday activities.
  • Decreased concentration.
  • Tiredness.
  • Sleep disorder (both too much and not enough).
  • Lack of appetite.
  • Weight loss (when not trying).

Thankfully, if you find you are suffering from one or many of these symptoms, overtraining is relatively easy to cure. Take at least a week off. When I say take a week off however, this doesn't mean go on a week long sugar binge, or beer drinking streak.

Drinking alcohol and lack of quality sleep will shoot your cortisol levels through the roof and may even advance your overtraining symptoms. What I mean is take a week away from the gym and let your body recover. Eat adequate amounts of food, being sure to include a variety of fruits and vegetables, fiber, quality protein, and whole grain sources of carbohydrates.

If you are an athlete, should you stop taking any of the supplements you've been taking? Well, if it is creatine, protein, amino acids, HMB, Glutamine, or other supplements aiding in your recovery, no.

I would continue taking these to help your muscles recover and get you ready for your comeback week. However if its caffeine, ma huang, or any other stimulants I would take a break. These supplements can affect your sleep no matter what time they are taken, and sleep has to be a number one priority for you during your recovery phase.

Reducing The Chances Of Overtraining

There are two factors important in preventing overtraining:

Exercise Factors

  • Allow for adequate recovery time in between exercise sessions.
  • Ensure variety in your exercises, and training techniques.

For help on how spice up your workout, see my previous article Spice Up Your Workout With These New Techniques.

Outside Factors

  • Maintain physical health by engaging in regular exercise.
  • Maintain emotional health.
  • Maintain spiritual health.
  • Maintain mental health.
  • Maintain interpersonal health.

Think of each of these factors as pieces making a complete "health wheel". If one of these factors is missing, or not complete, your wheel will not roll smoothly, or not at all, veering you off the course to success and resulting in overtraining.

Knowing how to spot the signs of overtraining is essential. It is even more important to know how to cure and prevent it.

Thankfully this is one of the only negative results of entering into an exercise program. Keep a close eye on the signals your body sends out, and do something about it. As always feel free to contact me through email with any questions.