What is Overtraining?

The modern society is more aware of their health and their role to the promotion of wellness. The awareness of wellness and health has lead to people taking up healthier lifestyles that include taking up sports and other exercise activities. However, the interest to be fit has been overtaken by the need to be thin and acceptable by society, which has brought about overtraining.

Overtraining is a process of excessive exercise training in high-performance athletes that may lead to overtraining syndrome. Overtraining is a process of excessive exercise training that may, if left unchecked, lead to a condition termed ‘overtraining syndrome’. Overtraining syndrome is a neuroendocrine disorder characterized by poor performance in competition, inability to maintain training loads, persistent fatigue, reduced catecholamine excretion, frequent illness, disturbed sleep and alterations in mood state. Although high-performance athletes are generally not clinically immune deficient, there is evidence that several immune parameters are suppressed during prolonged periods of intense exercise training. These include decreases in neutrophil function, serum and salivary immunoglobulin concentrations and natural killer cell number and possibly cytotoxic activity in peripheral blood. The mechanisms underlying overtraining syndrome have not been clearly identified, but are likely to involve autonomic dysfunction and possibly increased cytokine production resulting from the physical stress of intense daily training with inadequate recovery.

Sourced from: http://www.nature.com/icb/journal/v78/n5/full/icb200070a.html

Research has shown that overtraining syndrome is a neuroendocrine disorder that is characterized by the following characteristics;

  • Washed-out feeling, tired, drained, lack of energy
  • Mild leg soreness, general aches and pains
  • Pain in muscles and joints
  • Sudden drop in performance
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Decreased immunity (increased number of colds, and sore throats)
  • Decrease in training capacity / intensity
  • Moodiness and irritability
  • Depression
  • Loss of enthusiasm for the sport
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased incidence of injuries.
  • A compulsive need to exercise

Sourced from: http://sportsmedicine.about.com/cs/overtraining/a/aa062499a.htm

  • Elevated Resting Heart Rate
  • Stress fractures
  • Over-use injuries
  • Illness, or flu-like symptoms
  • Frequent infection
  • Chronic soreness
  • Loss of body weight
  • Anorexia
  • Obsessive/compulsive behavior with exercise

Sourced from: http://www.livefitlean.com/overtraining/


The symptoms of overtraining syndrome include the following; headaches, insomnia, depression, and decreased appetite. There are several ways you can objectively measure some signs of overtraining;

1.One is by documenting your heart rates over time. Track your aerobic heart rate at specific exercise intensities, speed throughout your training, and write it down. If your pace starts to slow, your resting heart rate increases and you experience other symptoms, you may heading into overtraining syndrome.

2.You can also track your resting heart rate each morning. Any marked increase from the norm may indicate that you are not fully recovered.

3.Another way to test recover to use something called the orthostatic heart rate test, developed by Heikki Rusko while working with cross-country skiers. To obtain this measurement:

  • Lay down and rest comfortably for 10 minutes the same time each day (morning is best).
  • At the end of 10 minutes, record your heart rate in beats per minute.
  • Then stand up
  • After 15 seconds, take a second heart rate in beats per minute.
  • After 90 seconds, take a third heart rate in beats per minute.
  • After 120 seconds, take a fourth heart rate in beats per minute.

Well rested athletes will show a consistent heart rate between measurements, but Rusko found a marked increase (10 beats/minutes or more) in the 120 second-post-standing measurement of athletes on the verge of overtraining. Such a change may indicate that you have not recovered from a previous workout, are fatigued, or otherwise stressed and it may be helpful to reduce training or rest another day before performing another workout.

4.A training log that includes a note about how you feel each day can help you notice downward trends and decreased enthusiasm. It is important to listen to your body signals and rest when you feel tired.

Sourced from: http://sportsmedicine.about.com/cs/overtraining/a/aa062499a.htm

One of the most helpful tools to help in measuring overtraining syndrome is the use of a training log that includes a note about how you feel each day after you notice decreased enthusiasm. If you suspect you are overtraining, start with the following;

  • Rest and Recover. Reduce or stop exercise and allow yourself a few days of rest.
  • Hydrate, Drink plenty of fluids and alter your diet if necessary.
  • Get a sports massage. This may help relax you mentally and physically.
  • Begin Cross Training. This often helps athletes who are overworking certain muscles or suffering from mental fatigue.

Research on overtraining syndrome shows getting adequate rest is the primary treatment plan. New evidence indicating that low levels of exercise, or active recovery, during the rest period speeds recovery and Moderate exercise increases immunity.
Total recovery from overtraining can take several weeks and should include proper nutrition and stress reduction.

Sourced from: http://sportsmedicine.about.com/cs/overtraining/a/aa062499a.htm