Are you overtraining?

We all know that regular exercise is of enormous benefit in a multitude of ways. However, a lot of people fail to achieve their full potential despite mammoth workouts day after day, week after week, month after month. They become frustrated because they feel like they should, by now, be super fit, but instead feel irritable and don’t actually make any progress after a while, for all their efforts. Why? Because more is not always better. Two hours running is not always better than one, five hours on the bike is not always better than two, 20 reps on a machine is not always better than 10. But so many people believe and behave like it is. Some are simply addicted, others believe that it’s the only way to get faster or stronger or gain more endurance or lose more weight. Many have bought in to calorie counting theory, lock stock and barrel, even though their results show it doesn’t work like that.

Here is a list of some symptoms of overtraining – it’s not exclusive and just because you have one of these symptoms doesn’t mean you are definitely overtraining:

  1. Frequent injuries and illness – the immune system may become weakened by excessive training and make you susceptible to colds and infections. insufficient recovery between sessions means muscles fail to recover properly and can lead also to poor form resulting in injury. I see so many people training through pain, all strapped up, exacerbating their injuries and possibly making things worse by compensating elsewhere in their bodies. Totally counter-productive.
  2. Poor sleep patterns and general irritability. Inability to relate to others.
  3. Plateauing or declining performance despite regular training.
  4. Ever-present muscle soreness or weakness.
  5. Loss of focus and tendency to measure workouts in terms of duration and frequency, instead of effectiveness with regard to goals.
  6. Low self-esteem when the body is unable to meet the unreasonable demands placed upon it.
  7. Constant thirst, no matter how much you drink.
  8. Loss of muscle mass due to constantly breaking it down without giving it time to repair itself.
  9. Weight gain because the over-stressed body releases too much cortisol which ends up making us store more fat.
  10. Elevated resting heart rate – normally as we get fitter aerobically or resting heart rate we would expect to come down or at least stay the same, but with excessive demands on the system the opposite can happen. If your resting heart rate is more than 10 beats per minute higher than usual, you may be ill or overtraining so back off.
  11. Loss of motivation – workouts become a drag and you wonder if it’s all worth it.

Only very experienced exercisers are able to listen to their body and understand the signals that they are overtraining, so it’s often a good idea to get a professional opinion from a coach or personal trainer, experienced in reading the signs. It takes years for people to get to a level where they can train anything like 7 days a week and not run the risk of overdoing it through lack of adaptation. Any exercise programme must include time for recovery and adaptation – this is almost as important as the workout itself and, if you ignore this, you will always pay the price sooner or later by getting injured or ill or losing motivation or getting declining results etc. I wonder how many people who set out on January 1st with a rush of enthusiasm have now given up or got injured or sick or failed to get the results they expected. It’s not just effort that’s required, it’s intelligent planning and recognition that there is no such thing as a quick fix when it comes to fitness or weight loss.

If anyone would like to discuss these issues further, I offer free personal training consultations at the White Horse Leisure Centre or at your home. You may contact me on 07504439555 or by email at

Please also join the White Horse Leisure Centre Fitness Forum Facebook group for more tips, advice, ask questions etc.




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