Know the Signs of Overtraining to Recognize It and Avoid It

overtrainingEvery athlete has had a time in their life where they have worked too hard. Sometimes we just give it our all. For me, it's usually on leg day. But in all seriousness, how do you know the signs of overtraining and how can you avoid it?

Is Overtraining Syndrome The Same As Being Sore?

If you think you've been overtraining, chances are you googled it. That led you to think you had overtraining syndrome (OTS). This is a serious condition that is usually only present in chronic exercise without adequate rest.

The National Institute of Health states that overtraining syndrome affects multiple systems in the body including neurologic, endocrinologic and immunologic.

Athletes with OTS often experience mood changes in addition to the other physical symptoms. The general theory is that OTS is caused by extreme inflammation, that never goes away (no rest).

The short answer is that overtraining syndrome is not the same as being sore. It requires a clinical diagnosis and is not ordinarily seen except in extreme athletes.

Does That Mean I Can't Over Train?


Everyone has done it. Overtraining can be seen on leg day in gyms across the world.

The day after leg day many have difficulty squatting, sitting, standing, bending, and doing normal activities. This phenomenon is known as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). DOMS is one of the key indicators that you have overtrained your muscles.

But I Had a Trainer Once Who Told Me.....

I don't care.

They were wrong.

Delayed onset muscle soreness is caused by a build-up of lactic acid. The body cannot flush the lactic acid out of the muscles and you get sore.

Let's fast forward, you do this every time you work out. DOMS everyday!

You're going to be so ripped? Right?


What you're doing is causing extreme inflammation to build up in the body, and you're not giving your body enough time to flush out of the system.

When you aim for a workout that is going to make you super sore, you're damaging your body to the point that it takes a long time to repair.

Not giving yourself enough rest, could cause big problems.

What Are Other Signs Of Over Training?

  • Constant Soreness
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Loss of Motivation
  • Insomnia
  • Increased Illness
  • Elevated Resting Heart Rate
  • Decreased Performance

If you experience a few of these signs, chances are that you are over training. In my experience, loss of motivation is a big one. Gym days feel like torture.

I feel like lifting 75% is good enough for the day, at least I went! But that is very wrong.

It would be much better to stay home and rest, maybe take a full week off and recharge the batteries.

Actually this is what I do. Every three months of training I take a week off, to avoid over training and deal with the symptoms.

By doing this, I am quite healthier too. In fact, when your body is too busy fighting the muscle inflammation it becomes more vulnerable.

Preventing Overtraining

Now you know what to look for to see if you may be overtraining. The signs of overtraining may not be that obvious. Overtraining is serious and shouldn't be taken lightly.

What can you do to prevent it?

Calculate Your Training Volume

Training volume is the amount of time you work out every week. If you notice that your training volume is very high, but your results are not stellar lower the time that you spend training to give yourself more down time.

Training volume should also only be increased by 5%-10% a week. So if you are currently training 150 minutes a week, the most you can train next week would be 165 minutes. Big leaps in training volume could have you seeing signs of overtraining.

Calculate Your Intensity

Intensity varies for both cardio and weight training so that we will look at both.

The same increase rule of 5%-10% applies for intensity as it does for volume. Though you want to increase one or the other; not both.

IE: You increase volume week 1 and increase intensity week 2, week three you maintain.

Cardio intensity: This is measured in a rating of perceived exertion RPE. The RPE scale goes from 1-10. If you started last week working at an RPE of 1 and suddenly you're always at an RPE of 7, you could be putting yourself in the danger zone.

Lifting intensity: Is measured by the weight you're lifting. If you started doing flys at 5 lbs you don't want to jump to 30 lbs the next session. While you may not be able to closely follow the 5-10% rule on weight (they aren't that customizable).

Increase weight slowly.

So that's it? Yep.

It's not that exciting is it? Preventing overtraining in 3 easy steps

  1. Calculate Volume
  2. Calculate Intensity
  3. REST

You have the secret formula to prevent overtraining for the rest of your life.

What are the signs of overtraining that you have experienced so far? How did you recover?


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