Are you pushing yourself hard during your workouts and yet seeing minimal improvement in your progress, or even regressing? Does it appear as if you are constantly struggling with bronchitis, tendonitis, or some other type of “itis”? Perhaps your usually abundant enthusiasm for exercising has dwindled to hardly noticeable.
These are some potential indicators of OTS and you do not have to be a professional sportsperson to experience them.
In this section, we’ll look into what is OTS, why it can be complicated to identify, the selection of indications that can be alerting, and several methods to assist the body in regaining its optimum performance.
In the upcoming seventh edition of the NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training (Jones & Bartlett 2022), it is outlined that overtraining syndrome is a state of weariness, declining performance, and emotional exhaustion (Sutton, 2022).
Too much exercise can go hand-in-hand with a variety of sports or fitness regimens–including running, group activities, and strength training–and it can impact people of all ages. Pediatricians observed a rise in OTS (Overuse injury in 2007) among children and adolescents engaged in competitive sports (Brenner, 2007).
The amount of intense training one can do range from doing a lot on a given day to a near constant lack of rest over an extended period.
Signs You’re Overtraining
1. Loss of Performance
The clearest indicator that one is overworking themselves is that their exercise routine gradually results in less impressive results even though they are increasing the duration or difficulty of the activity. Signs of overexertion can be seen through a decrease in strength, capacity, dexterity, and speed.
When going through a period of overtraining, weight lifters become weaker, runners’ pace slows down, and cyclists have a decrease in their power performance.
If you want to increase your performance, your initial inclination may be to make your training harder or do more of it; however, if you’ve already been pushing yourself too much, it will just worsen your situation.
2. Increased Difficulty
Aside from leading to inadequate results, overtraining makes exercise seem more laborious as well. If you find yourself struggling with your workouts even though you haven’t raised the intensity of your training, it’s possible that you may be pushing yourself too hard.
3. Excessive Soreness
It is normal to experience muscle tenderness after physical activity, like weight lifting, which is also known as delayed-onset muscle pain (DOMS). Usually, the pain associated with DOMS is short-lived, lasting merely one or two days before it dissipates.
In cases of overtraining, the resulting muscular pain may continue and affect daily routines. If you have a persistent, severe ache and the agony doesn’t stop by itself, you could be training too hard.
4. Lack of Appetite
Overdoing your workouts can negatively impact your hormones, and this can lead to varying levels of hunger or fullness when you eat. In athletes with overtraining syndrome, it is expected that their daily calorie intake, carbohydrate intake, and protein intake will be reduced, and their metabolic rate will also slow down.
Burnout and fatigue are common symptoms of overtraining. Excessive training can deplete your vigor by decreasing the cortisol and thyroid hormone amounts in your body.
If you participate in extensive or high-intensity workout plans while you are tired, you are likely to experience overtraining.
6. Mood Problems and Lack of Focus
Mood shifts can be a more effective way of determining if someone is overtraining than physiological readings from blood, heart rate, and metabolism in research.
Overtraining can throw off your body’s stress hormones, causing cortisol and adrenaline levels to become irregular. This can lead to intense mood swings, heightened irritability, depression, loss of focus, and slower response time.
An individual with a perfectionist approach to life may suffer an emotional decline due to the lack of satisfactory results from overtraining.
7. Poor Sleep or Insomnia
If you overwork yourself, it can impede your body’s ability to rest and repair itself during sleep. When someone is in an overtaxed state, their body produces too many stress hormones and this makes it difficult for them to wind down and have a good sleep, ultimately hindering their progress to recovery.
Inadequate amounts of rest can originate from as well as contribute to an excessive level of physical training in terms of both duration and strength.
8. Decreased Libido
Excess exercising can lead to a reduction in libido as a result of disrupted hormone levels and emotional disturbances. Generally, when working out, there is a decline in sex hormones such as testosterone, and an uptick in cortisol, the stress hormone.
Working out for a long time can lower a person’s testosterone levels, particularly for males, leading to a reduced interest in sex.
9. Frequent Illness
When you push yourself too hard, your body is not able to manage the oxidative tension as productively, resulting in inflammation. Systemic inflammation and stress caused by too much sports training can have a detrimental effect on the immune system.
If you are constantly ill or unable to recover from illnesses, it could be due to excessive exercising.
10. Frequent or Nagging Injuries
Engaging in excessive physical training raises your risk of hurting yourself and decreases your body’s capacity to heal because of disproportionate inflammation. Painful joints can also be an indication that your exercise routine may be too intense.
11. Fat Gain and Loss of Muscle Mass
Exerting too much effort can lead to an increase in fat as well as an undesired reduction in weight, specifically loss of muscle tissue.
If you exercise too intensively, your metabolism slows down, which can result in an increase in fat storage. When you push yourself further than you should, your body isn’t equipped to rebuild your muscle fibers, so strength workouts essentially lead to the breaking down of muscle tissue.
12. Elevated Morning Resting Heart Rate
Research examining endurance athletes has indicated that excessively training can raise morning resting heart rate by roughly 10 beats per minute. For endurance athletes, a great way to determine if they are putting in too much training is to measure their heart rate while at rest each morning.
Tools for Identifying Overtraining
This checklist might be a morning jolt or a useful resource, yet it remains subjective. Athletes may not take notice of certain manifestations – or they could think their health issues are not as constant, regular, or grave as they are.
This is especially the case for those people who become overly obsessed with exercise or for those whose job or self-image are tied to their physical activity. The main idea is that utilizing more tangible metrics would be beneficial.
Scientists, medical personnel, and physical fitness experts might recommend laboratory testing like blood samples to determine the amount of nutrients (including electrolytes and iron), hormones (including cortisol, thyroid, and testosterone), or other aspects (including blood count and markers of inflammation).
Fitness Journal and/or App
Preserving an exhaustive log of one’s exercise routines (encompassing magnitude of difficulty/mass, duration, and amount of sets/repetitions etc.) facilitates a comparison between present and preceding results. Athletes have the option of logging data on their sleep, nutritional intake, pain, health problems, and other metrics if they wish.
Technologies, ranging from applications and smartwatches to tracking programs, as well as simpler options like pen-and-paper journals all prove effective. People taking part should choose whatever approach is most likely for them to stick to.
Carrying out evaluations regularly can offer a useful starting point to make comparisons. When first interacting with a client, this is a practice that professional exercise coaches carry out and then continue to do consistently afterwards. It is best to measure cardiovascular health, strength, and stamina.
Measuring the amount of time it takes to do a one-mile run or noting the amount of pushups that can be done correctly before form begins to falter are examples of uncomplicated assessments (NASM, n.d.). (Find additional performance assessments here.)
By clicking the related links, you can get information regarding the primary fitness consultations and motion analyses.
Ratings of Perceived Assertion
The rating of perceived exertion links specific images of effort to numerical points on a range of 1 to 10 (or 1 to 20). Exercisers can incorporate this into any type of routine. The number selected should be indicative of how the individual is feeling in general. Making a note of these findings can help you identify any modifications in the amount of effort felt that can possibly be caused by overtraining.
Heart Rate and Blood Pressure
The heart rate of people who are in good physical condition generally tends to be lower; however, it is likely to increase if an athlete is pushing themselves too hard.
Many fitness watches enable you to keep track of your pulse effortlessly as they automatically monitor it, and it is also just as simple to determine your RHR manually with a pulse check at your wrist. It is recommended to measure your beats per minute before getting up in the morning by counting your beats for 10 seconds and multiplying by 6.
Training excessively can result in increased resting blood pressure which can be monitored at home. A healthcare professional can provide an individual with a reliable brand of monitor and inform them of optimal targets that are unique for each person (Sutton, 2022).
The heart rate shortly after physical activity may be influenced by overtraining. This is employed to observe how much time it requires for a heart rate increased by exercise to return to its regular base rate.
People who are in good physical shape tend to return to their regular heart rate faster than those who are not in shape. If the recuperation rate starts to last longer than it usually would, it could be an indication of physical activity deterioration (Sutton, 2022).
It has been indicated before that overtraining does not just occur from doing too much exercise or neglecting resting periods. Factors that may appear to be unchained can even increase the possibilities of someone succumbing to overtraining.
This can include engaging in the same routine, indulging in a solitary pastime or workout, having undergone sickness or harm (even if it’s healed already), having recently gone through a strenuous event such as a black belt trial, going through a meaningful life-altering happening like a relocation, death, dissolution, losing one’s employment or switching jobs, and even something gratifying, for example, the birth or reception of a child.
Environmental aspects such as elevation, temperature, humidity, and even a transition to a new time zone can all have an effect on the body’s ability to recover from exercise.
The higher the number of aspects that must be taken into account, the more the athlete must modify their regimen to prevent them becoming excessively dedicated (Kendall-Reed & Reed, 2020).
How to Recover from Overtraining
The conditions needed to bring stability back to someone’s life may vary from one person to another.
The most effective approach when dealing with overexertion that is prolonged, continual, or is causing system-wide alterations is to team up with a combination of healthcare and fitness experts. Here are some key pillars of recovery that they will likely address:
It may be a good idea to completely halt training for no less than seven days and call off any races or activities that are coming up if the situation is very serious. Athletes could potentially achieve better results by decreasing their training by anywhere from 50 to 80 percent.
It is not necessary to completely abstain from physical activity like walking or house chores, unless a physical affliction or wound needs the person to take much more rest (Cleveland Clinic, 2020; Stryker, 2016).
The National Sleep Foundation propose that American adults should have 7 to 9 hours of sleep nightly, however the majority of them fail to get the recommended duration. The demand for replenishment could heighten if someone is recuperating from going overboard with their workout regimens or after an intense workout or sequences of exercises.
It is important to establish a set bedtime and wakeup time and remain consistent with them, even on the weekends. In order to figure out how to construct habits that make it simpler to drift off and remain asleep, refer to the NSF’s website (NSF, 2020; Lastella et al., 2018).
Individuals who are aiming to lower their bodyweight usually cut the amount of calories they take in to the point where their body does not have enough nutrients to regenerate.
An illustration of this is that the body must receive a satisfactory amount of protein for muscle protein synthesis to take place (rebuilding muscle tissue on a molecular level) (Sutton, 2022).
It is noteworthy to mention the recent rise in the suggested daily amount of fluids to consume. It is suggested that women should consume 11.5 cups of fluid each day, while men should have 15.5. It is suggested to drink an additional 12 to 16 ounces of fluid for every 15 minutes of exercise for over an hour (Sutton, 2022).
Prior to the return to sport, any illnesses or injuries should be examined and treated.
Depending on the seriousness of the injury, the athlete may have to change their workouts, make adjustments to their exercises, or do an alternative form of exercise until the injury has healed. A healthcare specialist is the ideal person to provide assistance with recovery.
Therapeutic methods which are meant to aid in the healing process may include water therapy, wearing compressing clothing, massage, active recuperation and the use of a foam roller for self-fascial tissue release.
Decrease Caffeine and Stimulants
Exercise that is done on a regular basis will cause the stress hormone cortisol to rise within your body, however, when confronted with too much of a workout regimen, cortisol levels can sharply drop and cause a sense of exhaustion. Caffeine consumption can raise cortisol when you’re under stress.
It could be attractive to turn to more caffeine, but if you’re feeling overwhelmed or exhausted from too much activity, skipping caffeine and other pre-exercise stimulating substances is a more sensible decision.
Caffeine impedes the sleep pressure which leads to deep slumber, and a lack of restful sleep can aggravate overtraining.
Though pushing yourself more intensely can be successful in diminishing short-term exhaustion, you will eventually aggravate the issue if you turn to caffeine when you’re overtraining.
If you don’t overdose on caffeine, taking small to moderate amounts (100-200 mg) can help your body deal with strenuous activities. However, too much of it could actually cause you to feel more anxious and depressed.
If you have a regular caffeine intake, the beneficial effects of having a small dose of caffeine through exercise will no longer be applicable because you have grown used to it.
A de-load period is where the intensity or amount of your workout is decreased for a certain period of time. A de-load week can be beneficial in avoiding the potential for overtraining.
For strength training, you can reduce the number of reps you do with the same resistance, or you can drop the amount of weight to do the same reps – or you could combine the two. For endurance activities, you can take it easy and lower your speed, cut back on the length, or do a combination of both.
It is advisable to take a break from strenuous training and stressful conditions in intervals of four weeks. For most people, de-loading every eight weeks is appropriate.
Even if you would prefer to work out intensely, taking breaks every 3 months for one or two weeks can help your body to rest and aid your performance more than if you kept up an intense training plan the whole time.
Training vigorously and meeting your objectives can be immensely fulfilling, nevertheless, noticing the signs of pushing yourself excessively can protect you from afflictions, injury, and other major dilemmas.
When it comes to overtraining, prevention is vital. If you create an organized program with active recovery and times of total relaxation each week, you will probably not become overtired from excessive training.
Be mindful of any signs such as reduced prowess, muscular tenderness, weariness, mental health concerns, and unanticipated weight loss. If you give your body the attention it needs and pause before any major issues arise, you will be able to get back to your regular activities with more vigor.
It is critical to consult your physician if you believe you have overtrained, since some of the indicators of overtraining can also be the result of medical issues.