If you train long and hard enough, you will eventually overtrain. According to Wikipedia, overtraining occurs when you exceed your body’s ability to recover from strenuous physical activity.

In this article, I’ll answer what it means to overtrain and offer solutions to overcome it.

What Is Overtraining?

Characterized by excessive fatigue and a loss of performance, overtraining could derail your long term goals. By not giving your body sufficient recovery time in between workouts, you could be asking for a case of over exertion. Furthermore, if you choose to supplement your diet with low quality foods, you may risk over exerting your body.

As you know, nutrition plays a big role in the recovery process. Nutrients, protein and minerals are essential to building muscle. For instance, inadequate dietary regimes and a lack of sleep will sabotage your workouts. In this instance, overtraining is insidious and typically occurs over a long period of time. If you find yourself skipping too many meals and turning to bed too late, then make the necessary changes to get back on track.

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What Causes Overtraining?

Beside some of the listed examples above, other factors may contribute to workout fatigue. Overtrain can also happen outside of the gym. Environmental stressors, work related pressures and conflicts in our relationship can cause overtraining, for instance. According to a recent study, a growing number of people are experiencing more stress and anxiety than ever before.

Cortisol, a by product of stress, is a hormone that is secreted during bouts of stress. It hampers recovery by mitigating proper biological functions. The more cortisol you have floating in your body, the more fatigue you become.

the symptoms of elevated cortisol levels

  1. weight gain (especially around the belly)
  2. weight gain around the facial region
  3. increase in acne and skin blemishes
  4. weakened muscle
  5. poor sleeping patterns
  6. increase in irritability

There are many triggers for overtraining, most of which are unrelated to working out. A balanced lifestyle, free of stress and conflict goes a long way.

the symptoms of Overtraining

Think you may be overtrained?

Here’s a shortlist of symptoms of overtraining

  1. longer recovery times between workouts
  2. decrease in overall performance
  3. always tired
  4. unable to get a good night’s sleep
  5. loss of appetite
  6. weakened muscle
  7. insomnia
  8. increase in irritability
  9. loss of sex drive
  10. buzzing feeling throughout the day – none caffeine related
  11. susceptible to colds and infections

The overtraining phenomenon has far reaching consequences. At this point, going to the gym and duking it out is a big mistake. This “warrior mentality” gets me in trouble, time and time again.

What Happens When Overtraining?

The long term effects of overtraining are devastating. For instance, athletes have reported suffering from debilitating injuries during a state of chronic exhaustion.. In the case of the gym however, a poorly executed exercise increases the risk of injury ten fold. Muscle tears, joint dislocations and sprains occur at higher incidents when you are overtrained. Add heavy weight to this dilemma and your problem becomes worse.

Pro Tip #1

When hydrating, adding salt to your water helps regulate electrolyte balance. It also increases satiety and reduces the sensation of “cotton mouth”.

How Long Does It Take To Recover From Overtraining?

Overtraining will strike at least once in your life. Experience weight lifters avoid overtraining by relying on periodization. Periodization involves cycling through higher and lower periods of physical intensity. Varying your intensity levels during the course of a year greatly reduces the risk of overtraining. Cycles may last up to two to three weeks. Finally, lighter cycles provide active recovery periods thus reducing the likelihood of overtraining.

If periodization isn’t your thing, then here are other suggestions for avoiding overtraining.

  • rest more
  • include more “off days” in between workouts
  • eat higher quality foods
  • drink more protein shakes
  • drink more water
  • add salt to your water – salt increases absorption and is a favorite trick of mine
  • do other sports that are less intense eg. swimming and speed walking
  • relax and don’t feel guilty about taking a week off form the gym


The best way of combatting overtraining is to avoid its onset. Pay close attention to your overall demeanor and take the necessary precautions outlined above. You’ll be one step ahead.

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