Signs You Might Be Overtraining

No training update this week.  Instead I’m going to talk about how I felt, and how that affected my training.

This week, I woke up Monday after my long run totally exhausted.  Luckily, it was my off day, so I sucked it up, ate a lot, and figured I would feel better Tuesday, but this was not the case.  Day after day this week I felt like I never truly woke up.  I didn’t want to work out, and I was groggy, moody, and quick to get frustrated at myself and others.  I didn’t want to cook a real meal and I didn’t have much of an appetite anyways.  Finally, on Saturday, when I was supposed to go for my last real long ride before my triathlon, I woke up, put my bike clothes on, and sat in my living room for 2 hours debating on whether I actually wanted to ride.  Every time I thought about riding, I wanted to cry, but then every time I thought about not riding, I felt guilty.  I texted my friend, a high level triathlete, for advice and her response was “Do the ride really easy or don’t do it at all.  Burnout sucks.”  I told her I felt guilty for not doing my workout, and she wisely reminded me that having a fit body is nothing if you’re forcing yourself to do something you don’t want to do day after day.  I decided that this weekend, I would go against coach (sorry coach) and start my taper a weekend early, because I think I may have overreached.

What is overreaching?  Its a little less serious than overtraining syndrome, and its better when you recognize its happening to you so that you can prevent it from becoming overtraining syndrome.   So ideally, in a training situation, you overreach, recover, and come back stronger – this is functional overreaching and takes days to weeks.  But sometimes you push yourself a little too far to a point where its a little harder to recover  and you experience not fun physical and psychological symptoms, which becomes nonfunctional overreaching, and that takes a few weeks to get to.  I maybe should have taken it a little easier on some of my workouts here or there.  Overtraining is more serious, and can lead to psychologic, neurologic, endocrinologic, immunologic systems.

One thing to keep in mind in regard to overreaching/overtraining is that its a really difficult condition to recognize because there are so many possible symptoms:

  • Persistent heavy, stiff, and sore muscles
  • Persistent fatigue, washed-out feeling
  • Decreased performance and ability to maintain the training regimen
  • Increased susceptibility to infections, colds, headaches
  • Nagging and somewhat chronic injuries
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Decreased mental concentration and restlessness
  • Increased irritability
  • Depression
  • Tachycardia and, in some cases, bradycardia
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Bowel movement changes
  • Absence of menstruation

So what are some things you can do to make sure you don’t get into the overtraining hole?

  1. Listen to your body.  Overtraining aches and pains are different from just your normal hard workout aches.  They are persistent.  If you have been hitting the workouts hard and are suddenly feeling exhausted and just mentally not there, it might be time to take a break or just do something different.  Instead of my long run today, I went on a long hike.
  2. Listen & communicate with your coach.  If you are being trained, remember no matter how well your coach may know you, they can’t read your mind!  If you feel like you might be overtraining, your coach has the certifications to know what you’re going through and what to do about it.  This is important for them to know for future training plans too, what your limit is.
  3. Rest up.  Sleep is extremely important for recovery.  I know its hard when you have to squeeze workouts in between work and life, so sometimes that is what takes the back burner.  But remember sleep isn’t just important for your physical body to heal and recover, its time for your brain too.  Part of overtraining syndrome is all psychological.  Having good mental health is just as important as physical health.
  4. Eat well.  Food is fuel!  I know there is a school of thought where a calorie is a calorie and a carb is a carb, but I can say anecdotally that my body feels better and my training is so much better when I’m eating a balanced diet.  That means whole grain carbs like brown rice and quinoa, vegetables, and plenty of protein.  It doesn’t have to be bland either.  Books like the Feed Zone are awesome for quick, balanced meals.
  5. Remember that fitness is fun.  I know its cheesy.  But honestly if you aren’t truly enjoying something, maybe its time to reevaluate.  There are sooo many different types of workouts you can do to switch up your routine, and learning a new skill is good for your brain as well.


Do you have any overtraining stories or tips?  Post below!



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