Are you overtraining?

Published on 13 April 2021 at 11:41

So, you know those shirts that say something like ‘don’t stop training until this shirt is soaking’ or ‘if this shirt is still dry you haven’t trained hard enough’? Although I admire the dedication to fitness that these shirts are often encouraging, I find them a little counter productive. Contrary to popular belief, you really don’t need to be going at 110% in every single training session. In this blog post, I’ll be discussing why that is. 

One more thing before we get into this however, in order to see results, you do need to push yourself. I am by no means encouraging lazy exercise or showing up to the gym and ‘going through the motions’. I am highlighting that there is a sweet spot between exercising too hard and not exercising hard enough; and I hope this blog entry will help you to find yours. 


Overtraining: what it looks like

The problem is that pushing yourself to your limits and beyond every session just isn’t sustainable for your body in the long term. Training in this way puts you at risk of over-training and attempting to pursue this long term can result in physical burn out or injury. Like it or not, no matter how strong you are, we are all still human and our bodies need time to rest in order to recover and grow. 

Burnout caused by overtraining can take your body anywhere from 2 weeks to 3 months to recover depending on the severity. Regular overtraining will also slow down your results as your body is not being given the time it needs to recover. 


Things that cause overtraining include but are not limited to:

  1. An excessive number of training sessions per week and/or training multiple times in one day. The number of times you train per week does depend on the individual and their goals; however it is rare for the body to require training twice a day, 6-7 days every week.
  2. Four. Hour. Training. Sessions. Again the length of a session depends on the individual and their goals but training for this long, especially multiple times per week is a sign that you could be over training. 
  3. Training reps close to your maximum capacity. For example: if your heaviest squat is 100kg and you’re trying to squat 90kg for 4 sets of 5 every week; you aren’t going to get stronger, you are just going to burn out and probably injure yourself in the process.
  4. Maxing out every session. You do not need to be testing your max in every session. Testing your 1 rep max, your max speed or trying to beat your personal best every session will get you absolutely nowhere. Training at or near your maximum requires a tremendous amount of energy from your body and it isn’t sustainable to be doing this too often.
  5. Insufficient food intake. When you don’t put fuel in your car, it won’t run. The same goes for your body, if you are not eating enough, your body will not operate at its full potential. 


Overtraining: what it feels like

Your body will often try and tell you when something is wrong, the same goes for approaching physical burn out. Some signs and symptoms that may indicate that you’re heading towards physical burnout include but are not limited to:

  1. Fatigue or feeling of exhaustion even when you are getting a full night of rest. As your body becomes more and more heavily fatigued, it takes more than a large meal and a good night’s sleep to recover. 
  2. Decrease in performance. It is normal to have peaks and valleys in your training, however if you are constantly feeling tired, slow or unenthused by your exercise sessions, it could be a sign to take it easy for a bit. 
  3. Increased irritability and agitation. 
  4. Restless sleep or insomnia. Ironically, as your body is craving rest and recovery it can become more difficult to get a decent night of sleep. This is due to your body and mind being in a state of high stress alert which prevents you from getting the deep sleep required to recover. 
  5. Nagging pains and prolonged excessive muscle soreness. This is again due to your body not having enough rest in order to recover. 
  6. Physiological stress and hormonal imbalance. As your body is under stress, the brain is also affected by the hormones released from stress. This includes higher levels of adrenaline and cortisol, keeping the brain on high alert. 


Keep an eye out for my next blog post as I'll be discussing what we can be doing instead in order to avoid overtraining!

Add comment


There are no comments yet.