ARE YOU OVERTRAINING? What to look for, and how to avoid overtraining

Merkel & Jordan

You take your training seriously, working on those goals to build muscle, get leaner, move faster or for longer, constantly pushing hard in the gym for maximum results. But could you be doing TOO much of a good thing?

Every individual has a different level of “maximum recoverable volume” (or MRV, for short) – the amount of training your body can safely recover from. The good news is, if you’re training for 45-60 mins, 4-6 times per week, there’s a very low chance you’re overtraining. But for those who LOVE their gym/training time and find themselves regularly doing extended sessions (90+ minutes), double sessions, or skipping rest days, you could actually be doing more harm than good.

Overtraining can occur from too much high intensity/heavy training, inadequate recovery between sessions, no rest days/breaks/de-loads, insufficient sleep, inadequate nutrition to fuel you, or just generally training too hard, for too long, too often.

So how do you know if you are overtraining? As there’s no one blanket “safe” zone, and everyone’s MRV is different depending on your training style, how long you’ve been training for, your effort levels during training as well as your recovery practices (like stretching, mobility work, and regular rest days), here are some key warning signs to look out for, which may indicate that you’re overtraining and may need to slow it down or make changes to your training routine.

10 SIGNS OF OVERTRAINING:

1- EXCESSIVE FATIGUE – are you constantly tired, flat, and low in energy, particularly within the few hours following your training program?

2- DECREASED PERFORMANCE (STRENGTH/SPEED/POWER) – are you struggling to increase your weights over time, or are you actually going backward? Are the same sessions feeling harder and harder each week?

3- SLOWER RECOVERY BETWEEN SESSIONS/INCREASED SORENESS – are you finding that you’re still not recovered from previous sessions the next time you train, or are persistently sore?

4- NEW, RECURRING OR PERSISTENT INJURIES – are you finding that back soreness playing up more than ever, unable to shake a small injury, or have experienced a new injury that may be caused from muscular fatigue, impaired form, or inability to recover?

5- MOODINESS OR PERSONALITY CHANGES – are you noticing changes to your mood, such as crankiness, irritability, or snapping at people more than usual?

6- IMPAIRED SLEEP – Are you suffering from restlessness, mid-sleep wakeups, insomnia, or feeling soreness/stiffness in the middle of the night that is affecting your quality of sleep?

7- LOWERED CONCENTRATION/MENTAL FOCUS – are you struggling to focus at work/school, tuning out of conversations, not paying as much attention during training, or generally feeling “out of it”?

8- FREQUENT SICKNESS OR CONSTANTLY FEELING RUN DOWN – are you feeling like you’re experiencing those same cold/flu symptoms over and over, or always feeling on the cusp of getting sick?

9- DECREASED ENTHUSIASM/MOTIVATION FOR TRAINING – are you less excited to train, feeling burnt out, unmotivated for your usual routine, or just feeling like you’re in a rut?

10- PROGRESS PLATEAUS – has your training progress hit a plateau, or your physical progress come to a halt?

Ask yourself, are you experiencing any of the above persistently? 

One or two may be unrelated, but if you’re finding that you’re ticking off several warning signs on this list, and you know your training volume is high or you’re not taking sufficient rest & recovery time, then it’s time to take action to prevent any serious health concerns like a major injury, or excessive fatigue.

De-Load!

So how do you make changes? One thing to implement is a de-load week! Use your usual training program, and either cut the load (weight) or volume (amount of sets/reps) down to 50-70% of your usual. If you aren’t already, de-loads should be part of your regular weight training routine, usually one every 8 or so weeks, but more frequently if you’re finding you’re exceeding your MRV.

Also, make sure you are taking sufficient rest days. 1-2 per week of full rest (no weights, no high intensity) will allow your body to recover – you can walk, stretch, or focus on mobility work on these days if you still want to keep your body moving and not impair the recovery process.

Jessi Crunch Fitness

Recovery Methods

Ensure you are also practicing recovery methods – sufficient warm-ups and cool-downs, mobility work to improve your range of motion, refueling after workouts, while also getting plenty of sleep to help your body rest and recover after workouts. You can also incorporate: 

  • • Yoga classes or home sessions

  • • Ice baths

  • • Ocean swims

  • • Infrared sauna

  • • Massage

  • • Compression therapy

  • • Foam rolling

  • • Acupuncture 

  • • Adequate hydration 

Lastly, listen to your body! 

An excessively overworked body needs rest. If you’re finding that your training routine is negatively affecting your physical and/or mental health, take a step back. Add in extra rest days when needed, cut back on some of your training volume if you’re feeling run down, and work on being okay with sometimes not pushing yourself to your absolute limits in favor of ensuring your body is healthy and able to work at full capacity in the future. Remember that while it’s awesome to chase your goals, health comes first, so sometimes less is more! 

Written By Sami Rose

Sami is an Australian EHPLabs Athlete, qualified in fitness and personal training who runs a successful online coaching business. She is passionate about health, fitness, and sustainable transformations, whilst maintaining a balanced and healthy mindset. 

@samirosefitness