The dangers of overtraining

While overtraining is a common problem in strength training, it’s becoming increasingly common with people doing cardiovascular training as well. It’s important you understand what to look out for and spotting the early warning signs, which may help to avoid bigger problems in the future

What to look out for

Elevated resting heart rate

Knowing your resting heart rate is very useful when it comes to tracking performance.  A healthy resting heart rate range is 60-100bpm (beats per minute) and usually, the fitter you are, the lower your resting heart rate will be.  If you’re over-training you may notice your resting heart rate will be 10-15 bpm higher than usual. You’ll find that this is also the case if your body is fighting off the early stages of an illness.

Muscle soreness

This is common when exercising, however, if you’re experiencing soreness for longer than 72hrs then you need to schedule a break as this could be a sign of overtraining.  If you are aiming to build muscle then you need recovery if your muscles aren’t recovering it will have a negative impact on muscle gains

Sleep quality and insomnia

Struggling to get to sleep even though you have hit the gym hard and you feel exhausted? This can be linked to hormonal and nervous systems working in overload. Avoid eating late, sugary food (or other stimulants) and plan regular rest days until you’re back into a regular sleeping pattern.

Regularly feeling under the weather

This is your body’s way of telling you to rest because you’re overtraining and it’s starting to impact on your immune system.

Emotional Changes

Due to the stress put on your body during training, your hormone levels can be impacted. It’s not unusual to find you suffer some emotional changes including a lack of concentration or focus on tasks, low self-esteem, poor motivation or even depression.


If you’re always getting injured or little niggles aren’t healing, then this could mean your body can’t cope with the pressure it’s under with your training routine. It’s absolutely vital to rest so your body regains its strength.

Poor results and performance

One of the easiest ways to spot overtraining is to track your workouts. If you have three to four sessions in a row where your cardio workouts are slower, you can’t increase the weight you’re lifting for a few weeks or if you’re failing to complete sets, then these could mean you’re over doing it.

Other things to consider that can be linked to training performance are changes in diet or, conversely, not changing your diet to fit your training phase. Emotional changes – however minor – can also have a big impact on your performance.

Taking rest does not mean you are weak or unfit.  Rest is key to improving fitness and performance, regardless of what your training is.

Ways to spot and manage overtraining

  • Plan regular rest days
  • Keep a record of how you feel after each workout, both physically and emotionally. If you repeat workouts how does this compare
  • Heart rate devices are a great tool for measuring recovery rates
  • Quality sleep. Physical recovery happens between 10pm-2am so getting some early nights in will aid your recovery enormously
  • Correct nutrition is key to recovery. Make sure you plan your meals to ensure you’re refuelling effectively and getting the correct amount of nutrients in your diet
  • When weight training aim to keep your sessions between 45-75min