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Recognizing Overtraining

Written by: Cassidy Ryan, MA

A good training program will utilize progressive overload, where training stimulus increases as the body adapts to training. Exercise intensity can be increased by either duration (time spent training) or frequency (days training). This is known as your exercise volume. High-intensity training requires less volume than low-intensity training.

Sometimes an individual can experience Overtraining Syndrome. This is subjective and is identified when the individual’s performance and physiological function have suffered. Overtraining Syndrome is a combination of both emotional and physiological factors. Someone may experience some of the following symptoms:

  • Fatigued muscular strength, coordination and working capacity

  • Change in appetite

  • Body weight loss

  • Irritability, restlessness, excitability, anxiousness

  • Loss of motivation and vigor

  • Lack of mental concentration

  • Feelings of depression

  • Lack of appreciation for things that normally are enjoyable

Overtraining can be characterized by either “Intensity related,” or “Volume related.”

Some responses to the body that can happen from excessive high-intensity training or resistance training include increased resting heart rate, increased blood pressure, loss of appetite, decreased body mass, sleep disturbances, emotional irritability and elevated basal metabolic rate.

Some responses to the body that can happen from volume overload, usually seen in endurance athletes include early onset fatigue, decreased resting heart rate, rapid heart rate recovery after exercise and decreased resting blood pressure.

There are potential markers to determine whether the measurements obtained are related to overtraining or normal response to overload or overreaching, BUT the best method is to monitor the athlete’s heart rate during a standardized workout.

Example: Collecting one’s heart rate during a 1-mile run performed at a fixed pace of 7 min/mile. Heart rate will be higher when the runner is in an overtrained state than when responding well to training.

It is important to listen to your body and track your exercise volume. If you have questions regarding your training, contact one of our providers or exercise trainers today!

Source: Wilmore, H. J., Costill, L. D., & Kenney, L. W. (2008). Training for Sport. Physiology of sport and exercise (pp. 296-315). Human Kinetics.


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