Signs of Overtraining Syndrome

As fitness professionals, we spend the vast majority of our career encouraging the world to exercise regularly. So, it may seem rare that we must manage a client that is overtraining-but it happens more than you think.

Overtraining is a significant issue within our industry and the fortunate aspect of this issue is that it is avoidable. With the correct knowledge and guidance, our clients are able to avoid this disruptive and destructive practice. Understanding what leads to overtraining and the signs/symptoms of overtraining, may enable you to steer clear of this practice throughout your life.

This week, note five of the many major signs of overtraining and examine your program, your results, including the physiological and psychological aspects of your program. If you identify any of the overtraining signs described, it is time to take a closer look at the direction you are headed and make the appropriate, advisable modifications. As always, prior to beginning any exercise program, please consult your physician.

#1 Unrelenting fatigue. You begin to experience excessive, chronic fatigue prior to, during and especially following performance of your exercise program. There may be many reasons for the existence of this fatigue, not the least of which is that you are becoming ill; however, if you determine after consulting your physician that, this is not the case, carefully review your program with your fitness professional and note the current frequency, intensity, type and time of exercise to see if you might identify the root cause of the overtraining. Then, make the necessary modifications immediately.

#2 Lack of Strength. This may seem like it would fall under unrelenting fatigue and that is certainly possible; however, one of the first signs of overtraining is a loss of strength. If the body is not given enough time to adequately recover from the stress of training (yes, exercise is placing stress on the body which, for the most part, when prescribed correctly is exactly what needs to occur), then the muscle tissue begins to break down leading to a reduction in strength. Time for scheduled and specific program recovery protocols.

#3 Disinterested in your exercise program. This may just be due to boredom and lack of periodization within the program. However, overtraining may cause you to “care less” about working out compared to your long term workout history and this is a red flag.

#4 Sleeplessness or sleeping all of the time. If there is not another obvious reason for your inability to sleep effectively or feeling like you could sleep beyond your regular needs, then it could be that you are overtraining. Again, the body needs time to rest, recover, refuel and repair, both physically and mentally.

#5 Body fat/weight begins to increase. If you are exercising regularly, and you begin to gain weight and body fat, particularly if you have made great strides in your journey to either lose weight or maintain it, then you may be overtraining. When the body is continually stressed, hormones such as cortisol, begin creating havoc physiologically and may actually cause you to gain weight or at the very least plateau. Again, check the frequency, intensity, type and time of your exercise program and rethink the direction you are headed.

Jackie Wright is the owner/manager of Mountain Life Fitness, LLC located in Granby, Colorado. She may be reached at her website at, her email at and her Facebook page at Mountain Life Fitness.

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