Overtraining Syndrome - Six Signs You Might be Overtraining

While it can be admirable to push yourself to improve in your chosen sport, push too hard and you might just tip the balance into overtraining syndrome. Here’s how to tell if you might be overdoing it…

Overtraining syndrome occurs when you train more than your body can recover from, leaving you feeling tired, and more prone to illness and injury. It often stems from a fear of losing fitness, believing that the harder you train the better you’ll become. However, rest days are just as vital as training days: they’re the days your body repairs and recovers, adapting to the training you’ve been doing and helping you to become fitter, faster, and stronger. So skip them at your peril! Here are six signs you might be overtraining.

1. Underperformance

Train every day and you’re bound to see performance improvements, right? That’s not the case. If you’ve been overtraining, you’ll probably be putting in maximum effort without making any performance gains (your performance might even be getting worse). If you feel like you have less strength, speed, or stamina right now, or if your performance has plateaued, you might be overtraining.

2. A weakened immune system

Overtraining can leave you with a weakened immune symptom, as your body struggles to cope with the stress you’re placing it under. This can result in frequent illness, including mild illnesses such as colds and coughs, as well as feeling generally run down. You will also be putting yourself at a greater risk of infection, including upper respiratory tract infections.

3. Niggling injuries

If you’re not giving your body a chance to rest and recover in between training sessions, you’re going to be more prone to injuries, and any niggling injuries you do have are not going to get better. Persistent injuries and muscular pain are common signs of overtraining.

4. Lack of motivation and fatigue

The physical and mental exhaustion associated with overtraining can see you lose motivation for working out, and the fatigue you’ll be feeling will make it harder for you to drag yourself out for training sessions. If you usually love exercise but have recently lost all sense of enthusiasm and motivation, something is probably amiss.

5. Difficulty sleeping

Ironically, while sleep is the thing your body probably needs most right now, overtraining can make it harder for you to drift off to sleep each night. This is because it disrupts your stress hormones, making it harder for you to relax and unwind, leaving you in a Catch 22 situation: overtraining makes it harder to sleep, but the lack of sleep is going to leave you feeling more fatigued, exacerbating the symptoms.

6. A raised resting heart rate

A raised resting heart rate is a sign of overtraining. Make a habit of taking your pulse (or checking your heart rate on your GPS watch) as soon as you wake up in the morning before you get out of bed. An increase of 10bpm or more is a sign your body hasn't fully recovered from your previous training session.

If you recognise the above symptoms, it’s time to lower your training intensity, increase your rest days, improve your sleep, and increase your nutritional intake. By slowing right down and giving your body the time and fuel, it needs to fully recover, you can expect to see an improvement in symptoms after a few weeks (although depending on how intensely you’ve been training, it can take several months to feel bursting with energy once more).

If you need to speak to experts in physical health, seek our team of physiotherapists or osteopaths at Surrey Physio – many have worked in elite sport. Good luck!