Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
23 Feb

8 Signs You Are Overtraining

exercisefatigueWhen you spend some time among the ever-growing circle of evolutionary-based health writers, thinkers, bloggers, and doctors, you notice a curious thing happening. Conventional Wisdom is becoming turned on its head. Saturated fat is generally healthy and excessive endurance training is generally unhealthy become the presiding narratives. Grains are either unnecessary or have the tendency to attack the gut lining, even guts with “clinically undetectable levels of sensitivity.” You don’t need six square meals a day to keep your metabolism up and running, after all; one or two a day will do just fine.

Less is more – as far as exercise goes – is becoming another accepted truth, especially when you understand that 80% of your body composition is determined by how you eat.

If you dial the diet in (Primal Blueprint, of course), you just don’t need to “burn off” tons of excess calories with a lot of hard work. Yet many people are still tied to that assumption and ride that fine line between training enough to maximize strength and unnecessarily reaching too far. Overtraining is a very real danger for those engaged in physical culture. In fact, while the majority of this country (and of many others) suffers from a massive physical activity deficit, a sizeable portion of my readers faces the opposite danger. Understanding exactly how much to exercise can be tricky. No activity is worse than some, while too much may be worse than none at all. The ideal lies somewhere in between – though not necessarily in the middle, but rather smack dab in the “just enough” section. Can “just enough” be quantified? Perhaps it could be quantified using a battery of round-the-clock tests and measurements of anabolic and catabolic hormones, various serum concentrations, lactate build-up, cortisol:testosterone ratios, etc, but that would be expensive, unwieldy, and completely individualized. These types of objective measurements, ironically, would be more subjective than anything else; you couldn’t accurately extrapolate an overtraining threshold for the entire population from a single trainee’s results.

People are unique. Sure, nutritional requirements for human physiology adhere to a set of overarching principles, yet a single, universally specific macronutrient profile cannot be nailed down for all humans. In the end, each of us must craft his or her own identity, plan, regimen, and discover his or her own weaknesses, vulnerabilities, and sensitivities. In short, we must each become our own test subject (as well as astute observer) if we wish to optimize our health and our fitness. The concept of overtraining is similar. There’s a clinical definition – a state of chronic fatigue, depression, and underperformance that persists despite rest – and there’s a more general, working definition – a basic imbalance between work and recovery. Overtraining can also be highly personal and goal-dependent. Overtraining might describe anytime your training is working against you, and where adding more of it makes the problem worse. If you want to avoid overtraining, there are some grand, overarching principles to follow, but you’ll also want to pay attention to certain personal, entirely subjective cues.

What follows is my basic list of signs that indicate you may be overtraining. Some are objective measures, while others derive from my own personal experiences with overtraining. There are overlaps, and I’ve probably missed more than a few, but I’m confident what’s listed will be invaluable to anyone who trains, and trains hard.

1. You repeatedly fail to complete your normal workout.

I’m not talking about normal failure. Some people train to failure as a rule, and that’s fine. I’m talking failure to lift the weights you usually lift, run the hill sprints you usually run, and complete the hike you normally complete. Regression. If you’re actively getting weaker, slower, and your stamina is deteriorating despite regular exercise, you’re probably training too much. Note, though, that this isn’t the same as deloading. Pushing yourself to higher weights and failing at those is a normal part of progression, but if you’re unable to lift weights that you formerly handled with relative ease, you may be overtrained.

2. You’re losing leanness despite increased exercise.

If losing fat was as easy as burning calories by increasing work output, overtraining would never result in fat gain – but that isn’t the case. It’s about the hormones. Sometimes, working out too much can actually cause muscle wasting and fat deposition. You’re “burning calories,” probably more than ever before, but it’s predominantly glucose/glycogen and precious muscle tissue. Net effect: you’re getting less lean. The hormonal balance has been tipped. You’ve been overtraining, and the all-important testosterone:cortisol ratio is lopsided. Generally speaking, a positive T:C ratio means more muscle and less fat, while a negative ratio means you’re either training too much, sleeping too little, or some combination of the two. Either way, too much cortisol will increase insulin resistance and fat deposition, especially around the midsection. Have you been working out like a madman only to see your definition decrease? You’re probably overtraining.

3. You’re lifting/sprinting/HIITing hard every single day.

The odd genetic freak could conceivably lift heavy, sprint fast, and engage in metabolic conditioning nearly every day of the week and adequately recover, without suffering ill effects. Chances are, however, you are not a genetic freak with Wolverine’s healing factor. Most people who maintain such a hectic physical schedule will not recover (especially if they have a family and/or a job). Performance will suffer, health will deteriorate, and everything they’ve worked to achieve will be compromised. Many professional athletes can practice for hours a day every day and see incredible results (especially if they are using performance enhancing substances), but you’re not a professional, are you?

4. You’re primarily an anaerobic/power/explosive/strength athlete, and you feel restless, excitable, and unable to sleep in your down time.

When a sprinter or a power athlete overtrains, the sympathetic nervous system dominates. Symptoms include hyperexcitability, restlessness, and an inability to focus (especially on athletic performance), even while at rest or on your off day. Sleep is generally disturbed in sympathetic-dominant overtrained athletes, recovery slows, and the resting heart rate remains elevated. Simply put, the body is reacting to a chronically stressful situation by heightening the sympathetic stress system’s activity levels. Most PBers who overtrain will see their sympathetic nervous system afflicted, simply because they lean toward the high-intensity, power, strength side.

5. You’re primarily an endurance athlete, and you feel overly fatigued, sluggish, and useless.

Too much resistance training can cause sympathetic overtraining; too much endurance work can cause parasympathetic overtraining, which is characterized by decreased testosterone levels, increased cortisol levels, debilitating fatigue (both mental and physical), and a failure to lose body fat. While I tend to advise against any appreciable amount of endurance training, chronic fatigue remains an issue worthy of repeating. Being fit enough to run ten miles doesn’t mean that you now have to do it every day.

6. Your joints, bones, or limbs hurt.

I’m unaware of any clinical tests that can identify overuse injuries specifically caused by overtraining, but don’t you think that pain in your knee might be an indication that you should reassess how you exercise that knee? In the lifts, limb pain can either be DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) or it can indicate poor technique or improper form; DOMS is a natural response that should go away in a day or two, while poor form is more serious and can be linked to overuse or overtraining. With regard to endurance training, if you creak, you wince at every step, and you dread staircases, it may be that you’ve run too far or too hard for too long. The danger here is that your daily endorphin high has over-ridden your natural pain receptors. You should probably listen to them more acutely. I tuned them out for longer than I should have and it cost me my career as a marathoner (so I got that going for me, which is nice).

7. You’re suddenly falling ill a lot more often.

Many things can compromise your immune system. Dietary changes (especially increased sugar intake), lack of Vitamin D/sunlight, poor sleep habits, mental stress are all usual suspects, but what if those are all locked in and stable? What if you’re eating right, getting plenty of sun, and enjoying a regular eight hours of solid sleep each night, but you find yourself getting sick? Nothing too serious, mind you. A nagging cough here, a little sniffle or two there, some congestion and a headache, perhaps. These were fairly normal before you went Primal, but they’ve returned. Your immune system may be suffering from the added stress of your overtraining. It’s an easy trap to fall into, simply because it’s often the natural progression for many accomplished athletes or trainees looking to increase their work or improve their performance: work harder, work longer. If you’ve recently increased your exercise output, keep track of those early morning sore throats and sneezes. Any increases may indicate a poor immune system brought on by overtraining.

8. You feel like crap the hours and days after a big workout.

Once you get into the swing of things, one of the great benefits of exercise is the post-workout feeling of wellness. You’ve got the big, immediate, heady rush of endorphins during and right after a session, followed by that luxurious, warm glow that infuses your mind and body for hours (and even days). It’s the best feeling, isn’t it? We all love it. What if that glow never comes, though? What if instead of feeling energetic and enriched after a workout, you feel sketchy and uncomfortable? As I said before, post-workout DOMS is completely normal, but feeling like death (mentally and physically) is not. Exercise generally elevates mood; if it’s having a negative effect on your mood, it’s probably too much.

How about you, readers? Do you have any tried-and-true indicators that your body has had more than it can handle? Let me know, and check back next week for information on how to avoid, mitigate, and respond to overtraining.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Bam first.

    Great post.

    arthurb999 wrote on February 23rd, 2010
    • Dude, don’t do the “first” thing – this isn’t youtube, and you’re probably not 14 years old.

      justin wrote on February 24th, 2010
      • Yes! Please delete stupid comments like these worker bees. Take Justin’s and mine down when it goes. They contribute nothing to this great site.

        Grok wrote on February 24th, 2010
        • Let me “third” that motion. Maybe a show of hands one time here and we can not have to keep dealing with wasting space.

          Rodney wrote on February 24th, 2010
        • I totally agree. Tot’s mi-goats.

          Totes wrote on November 30th, 2011
  2. Not looking forward to my workouts is a sure indication they are too frequent…

    Methuselah - Pay Now Live Later wrote on February 23rd, 2010
    • Ditto that. Losing my mental edge is the first symptom. Pausing at the bottom of a staircase, wishing I didn’t have to go up it because my legs are just too weary, is another.

      BarbeyGirl wrote on February 24th, 2010
  3. I had a bout with overtraining this past December. I was trying to do an 8-week Olympic Weightlifting cycle and CrossFit workouts all at once. I hit rock bottom after the 8-weeks was over. My performances went downhill towards the end of the cycle. I did not feel like training at all, was tired all the time, and my body just ached. This threw the red flag my way and I researched overtraining syndrome and that is exactly what was going on.

    Since then, I have cut my training in 1/2 and feel so much better. Less is more for me.

    Barry Weidner wrote on February 23rd, 2010
    • Decreasing volume by 50% every 3-4 weeks for a week is a great way to avoid burn out.

      Kishore wrote on February 23rd, 2010
      • I don’t feel so guilty taking last week off, I needed the rest.

        g2baker wrote on February 23rd, 2010
      • Bang on the money Kishore! I train a few athletes & normally put them on 14-21 day training cycles followed by 7 days reduced volume. I also use non-linear training, spreading the various workout types out over the 14-21 days, rather than trying to cram everything into a 7 day cycle like most do.

        I find the experienced ones can handle 3 weeks before getting cooked, & newbies are generally good for 2 on 1 off.

        Jamie wrote on February 23rd, 2010
        • I think cycling volume and intensity phases is good. The research is clear on volume vs hypertrophy, you need some volume for muscle growth. Vince Gironda style 8*8 routines are great for that. An intensity phase will be more than welcome after such a high volume phase. You might have also noticed that the higher the training age, the better they respond to lower reps due to increased nueral efficiency.

          Kishore wrote on February 23rd, 2010
    • A great way to ensure you’re not overtraining, is to cycle your days, or weeks depending on preference. I do a Medium/High/Light cycle each week where I do medium weight/intensity, high weight/intensity, and low weight/intensity. This ensures you’re not overtraining, allows deloding and negates plateuing (spelling?). I do a daily workout of 1 hour at maximum, 5 days a week, resting on weekends. I am training for strongman competitions so the workouts do get real intense but yet no negative effects, only progress.

      Nathan wrote on January 10th, 2012
  4. Damn..Third

    Good Info. Thanks

    rdwdawg wrote on February 23rd, 2010
    • You got fourth. Suckaaa!

      Ben wrote on February 23rd, 2010
  5. Excellent article. Overtraining is so often overlooked.

    Organic Gabe wrote on February 23rd, 2010
  6. Thanks for the info Mark! A few things I have learned from my personal experience.

    1. Your morning heart rate is a good indicator of overtraining
    2. For a guy, waking up in the morning with a ‘tent’ is a direct indicator of Testosterone levels and overtraining spoils that
    3. There is value to controlled overtraining: If you’re not making progress in the gym, smash yourself into the ground for two weeks — purposefully overtrain until you’re mentally depressed and your body is about to shutdown — then take five days off. When you come back into the gym, you’ll hit new personal bests.
    4. If you leave the gym refreshed and recharged, the intensity and volume was probably optimal.

    Kishore wrote on February 23rd, 2010
    • Hey,
      Thanks for that great advise “If you’re not making progress in the gym, smash yourself into the ground for two weeks — purposefully overtrain until you’re mentally depressed and your body is about to shutdown — then take five days off. When you come back into the gym, you’ll hit new personal bests.”

      I do jiu jitsu and in last 6 weeks I’ve gone gang busters. Two weeks straight I did 35hrs on the mat and then 2hrs/day. My fingers felt like they were about to fall off (I seriously think my pinky is broken). While my endurance has greatly improved and my physical skill and performance has improved, last five days I get very restless in my legs and arms to the point I can’t sleep. And (to my wife’s complaint) I usually i fall asleep in 5 seconds flat!

      So maybe I’ll try stopping for 4 or 5 days and see what happens. If i hit a personal best, I’ll be SO happy.

      Cheers,
      PM99

      PM99 wrote on September 15th, 2011
    • #2 is how I know. If I suddenly stop getting morning wood (I’m only in my late 30′s) I know I’ve overdone it. Sure enough i’ll start dropping reps, achey joints, all the other stuff.

      It sucks cause it’s human nature to work HARDER to see better results, but there’s a limit. If you can’t recover from your workouts it’s pointless. In my experience once you cross the overtrained ‘threshold’ whatever that may be, you’re much better off taking a full week off – no cardio, no weights, just be lazy for a week, then you are trying to ease off a bit. Once you come off that week, you’ll be fine. ;-)

      matt wrote on July 8th, 2013
  7. Great Article. May I add that when you are no longer motivated to train, then that is also a sign. I went through that after a few years of training for Olympic Distance Triathlon…I eventually quit altogether and moved on from endurance training to training for life. Feel much better and I am sick once a year compared to 3-5 times a year. I enjoy trail running, Olympic Lifting, short circuits, and the odd bike ride to work but don’t follow a schedule and now look and feel better than ever!

    Karl MacPhee wrote on February 23rd, 2010
  8. I know I am over trained when I need to use the granny gear on my mountain bike and have to limp back to the truck after 20 minutes. It happens every June when the days are long and the riding is good. One day I’m fine and the next it feels like I am pulling a boat anchor and everyone is riding away from me.

    Rich wrote on February 23rd, 2010
    • Yes exactly. Happens to me a lot and it is so mentally frustrating. Happened to me yesterday and although my training schedule does not call for it I’m taking the next 2 days off. When this happens to me it also includes a very high heart rate for very little effort. Yesterday I was in granny gear going up hill on a concrete path and had a hard time keeping my HR below 150.

      BMG9 wrote on May 22nd, 2011
    • Ditto. I actually found this site when I Google’d “what are the symptoms of over-training,” which I did because of how terrible I felt on the Ladies weekly mountain bike ride I just did. I’ve been working really hard this spring, and the the day before the women’s ride, I’d been on a rather long (over 2 hours) fire road climb and then about 40 minutes of trails. The next day at the women’s ride, we were all going up a steep hill that I’d done 3 times that week, and EVERYONE was riding right by me while I struggled to make it. I just couldn’t get up the last steep section of the hill! I had to get off and walk. I was toasted. I ran right of gas less than 15 minutes into the ride. I got really bummed out and actually thought about riding home. I felt better once we got onto the trails, but I think my body was just telling me to knock it off already.

      DirtGirl wrote on April 25th, 2013
  9. Dreading my workout is definitely my first cue that something ain’t quite right in my primal world.

    Sometimes the culprit can be overtraining, but sometimes it’s a question of nutritional needs or something missing in another area.

    Thanks for the reminder that we need to always listen to our body!

    Lucky wrote on February 23rd, 2010
  10. I know this is not directly over-training – but nonetheless; The PB is all about health and happiness…enjoying mental clarity and physical energy (I am sure it can be described more accurately and poetically than that). But in sports such as MMA, football, even golf which lacks the demanding physical component and most of all LIFE- there is the pursuit of meaning from going beyond the comfort zones. Suffering a little, whether its staying out and hitting golf shots an extra hour after an already long day, or running in desert heat for miles on end, builds a mental fortitude that the PB does not seem discuss much. I derive great peace on the occasions when I have pushed my body to the limit and my mind was taken to the breaking point. Sometimes people need to know what they are made of, that they are not getting soft. what is the PB take on mental toughness?

    Mat wrote on February 23rd, 2010
    • I think that’s what he meant by “I’m not talking about normal failure. Some people train to failure as a rule, and that’s fine. I’m talking failure to lift the weights you usually lift, run the hill sprints you usually run, and complete the hike you normally complete. Regression.”

      Kristin wrote on February 23rd, 2010
  11. I definitely notice overtraining with the sleeplessness and restlessness. Good post.

    Jake wrote on February 23rd, 2010
  12. i put the percentage of what you eat at 90 not 80 for the average gym-goer/home exerciser.

    the best thing i ever did for my bod was learn to rest when it says rest and give up my OCD “must be in gym 5 mornings a week at 5:30am” mania. now if i want to sleep in, i do. my body pays me back many times over for learning to respect it more than self-imposed routines.

    Lolly wrote on February 23rd, 2010
  13. Mark,

    I would be interested to know your thoughts on P90X? I just started the program and I didn’t realize you were part of it until I watched the first DVD.

    I think P90X is way too much training (6 days per week for at least an hour each session), but I figure on 90-day test trial shouldn’t hurt me too bad.

    I also found it interesting in the video when you said that eating multiple small meals per day to keep your metabolism was the right way to go.

    When was that video done?

    Primal Buckeye wrote on February 23rd, 2010
    • The videos were shot over seven years ago. Though I’ve been preaching the Primal message for decades now my stance on certain health and fitness-related issues has certainly evolved over time. As such, on the whole I have radically changed my approaches to both diet and exercise long since those videos were shot. Heck, if you dig back far enough in the archives (circa 2006) here on MDA you might find some things that aren’t 100% Primal Blueprint. Such is the nature of learning and informing your positions with new research.

      Mark Sisson wrote on February 23rd, 2010
      • I understand that positions change over time Mark. That is why I asked when those videos were taped.

        Anyway, what are your thoughts on P90X as a training routine?

        Primal Buckeye wrote on February 23rd, 2010
    • I started P90X about 2 years ago, and basically did 5 rounds in a row. Since turning to a primal lifestyle, I still use the workouts, but I don’t use them in the same rotation. I certainly don’t workout every day. Activity every day, yes. P90X every day, no. I did have great results with it. I’d been using resistance equipment at the gym or a bow-flex in my basement for years, and NEVER saw the definition (or strength) in my back, shoulders, or arms that I got off of one round of P90X. The other 2 things I like about it…. 1. I can work out in my basement when it’s convenient for me. 2. Every move can be modified so I can tailor the workouts to my needs and abilities.

      Have fun with it!

      Jenni39 wrote on February 24th, 2010
  14. I also did P90x but wasn’t able to finish due to a bad back but the training is a little too intense at times. the good thing is it teaches muscle confusion but you must (I thought this was best) cut the training down to 3-4 times per week and concentrate more on diet then killing myself with every workout.

    Matt wrote on February 23rd, 2010
    • What I liked about P90X was that it taught me the meaning of a hard workout. I thought I was working hard before I did P90X, but I was deluding myself. I don’t workout every day now, and when I do it is only for 30-40 minutes, but it is high intensity and serious.

      P90X has helped thousands of people go from couch potatoes to fit, but I see too many of its acolytes going too far. I now read about Insanity/P90X hybrid programs and I know the people doing that are overtraining and doing themselves more harm than good.

      I like the Primal Blueprint because we do this to live, not live to do this.

      DaveFish wrote on February 23rd, 2010
      • I have been a regular gym member – weightlifter for 31 years. High intensity cardio lifting ( SWEAT don’t SIT ! ) – not rest and check my phone / gabbing with others. I finished P90x last year as my 50th birthday present to myself. Throughly enjoyed months one and two – became somewhat bored and strolled thru month 3. Haven’t touched it since. Highly recommended for a change of pace. Tony was a very entertaining DVD fitness coach. He clearly tells you to modify movements – no need to be a superhero when following the instructions.

        Having a second day in a row off today. Hate it but sometimes you need a break.

        JV wrote on June 24th, 2013
  15. Mark! thank you so much for this. It is just what I needed to hear today. 4 and 5 really hit home for me.

    Bobbi Holyoak wrote on February 23rd, 2010
  16. You always know….

    If you’re asking the question, then you already have the answer.

    Whether or not you listen to your body is the determining factor of over training.

    Dozer wrote on February 23rd, 2010
  17. Hey Mark! Great post. Thank you for giving me something new to think about every day. I have been on a quest to find the nutrition plan that works best for me. I found you through Zen Habits. I just purchased a copy of your book and believe it or not my husband is actually excited about reading it as well! We are both in our 40′s and hoping to have the luxury of semi-retiring in the next 4 years and we want to be fit and healthy to enjoy each other and the world! I’ll keep you posted on our progress. Thanks for the inspiration. I’m just getting ito blogging Commit2BFit on blogger. I have referenced some of your work in my blog. Hope you don’t mind :)

    Allyson wrote on February 23rd, 2010
    • Welcome to MDA and thanks for purchasing a copy of my book!

      Yes, please stay in touch.

      Mark Sisson wrote on February 23rd, 2010
  18. Fantastic and timely post Mark. Thanks for the nudge in the ribs on this one.

    ccarrigan wrote on February 23rd, 2010
  19. Waking up in the middle of the night.

    Sam wrote on February 23rd, 2010
  20. I have a feeling that I have been training too hard for quite some time. Just got back from a 10 day vacation where I spent most of my time eating and sleeping, with walks as my only form of exercise. Expected to gain weight, but ended up losing 3 of the 5 pounds I’ve been trying to shift for over 18 months! Stress fat anyone?

    Darcy wrote on February 23rd, 2010
  21. If you’re popping NSAIDs like PEZ,you might be over training.

    Dave Reid wrote on February 23rd, 2010
  22. For a long time i believed, “If I want to be healthy, I have to suffer for it.” There was a point a couple years ago, that I trained way too often, ate far too little, and (surprise surprise!) ended up feeling exhausted all the time. Of course, I quickly ended up getting burned out, and stopped doing all exercise and started eating like crap.

    I wish that I had been more educated about over training (and eating right) because I wasted a lot of time regressing in my health. Thanks so much for posts like these that remind me how important it is to listen to my own body. These days I’m at 195 (down from 240, but still and always improving), and I feel better than i have in my entire life.

    anzy wrote on February 23rd, 2010
  23. What a timely article Mark. I was reading an article in the Nassau Guardian last night and was going to blog about its contents regarding overtraining. So many times, people equate exercise volume with more fat loss and better health; your post obviously shows how that line of thinking is flawed and can be dangerous.

    Sterling wrote on February 23rd, 2010
  24. Since I have reduced my gym time from 5 days a week to 2-3 per week as recommended in the PB and have used the other days just to walk, do some functional stuff or just relax with the family.

    My workouts are better, I am more energized and my strength has increased. I only do one exercise per workout. Deadlifts, bench or squats and when I am at the gym, I lift heavy, stretch a little and leave. In and out in 45 minutes to an hour.

    I am in my 30 day challenge (finally) and after this I will be fully Primal in my lifestyle. The benefits of the PB really are total life changing.

    Again…great article Mark!

    mikecheliak wrote on February 23rd, 2010
  25. This post could not have come at a better time. I realized late last week that I have fallen victim to overtraining recently. I started doing the 100 Pushups program and in my 5th week I felt weaker on my attempts. Come to find out I was also practing the 5 X 5 program and I was putting undue stress on my upper body and shoulders. It’s tough to change your attitudes towards training and bringing those days down from 6 to 5 or less. I’m still not there, but plan to adopt that method in the next month when my current goals are met.
    The best point in this post for me – when you live primal, you don’t HAVE TO work out 6-7 days/week. That was a great point and one I will take to heart moving forward.

    Grok On!

    Jeff P (P stands for Primal) wrote on February 23rd, 2010
  26. I dealt with massive fatigue after months of mountain climbing, lifting, sprinting, cycling, and soccer… I started to develop fatigue that plagued my workout/play often and assumed I must have been over-training. I lowered my activity level for 6 weeks and had no luck with my energy levels. So after a couple trips to the doctor with no conclusive results, they finally measured my body fat somewhere around 4.5-5%. So I increased my calorie intake by 35%… Now I feel good all the time and recover quickly.

    SIDE NOTE: I know i do far too much cardio for the Primal Blueprint, but I just love climbing those mountains ;)

    Brian C wrote on February 23rd, 2010
  27. Very timely. I would add another sign:

    You are struggling to fit in workouts in your daily life, despite making some reasonable changes.

    I was doing this, and ended up run ragged – stressed, not sleeping, craving sugar and permanently hungry.

    I have dropped my workouts from 3 hours a day + to about 2 hours (it’s not as rigorous as it sounds) and made it more part of my lifestyle: walking to work [parking a way away] more, dance classes etc. I’ve stopped getting worried if I have to miss a workout. I am much less stressed and eating a little less, and hope my body composition will soon reflect these changes.

    Thanks Mark!

    Lekki Wood wrote on February 23rd, 2010
  28. Wow, #2 and #8 describe me perfectly right now. I’m presently training for a sub 3:00 marathon and strength-training to build muscle simultaneously. The running part is progressing fine, but I am definitely losing mass. I think I should rest a little bit more. I currently rest 1 out of every 14 days. Is that too little?

    Regarding #8, I ran a hard 21-miles on Sunday and I have felt like crap ever since. I have been Googling this for the last 2 days with little success other than the fact that it’s somewhat common and cause may be dehydration. Any ideas?

    Finally, this is really random, but I commend your proper use of grammar throughout this post, especially with subject-verb agreement. Yes I am a grammar geek, so just thought I’d give you props for that one! Haha

    Hugh wrote on February 23rd, 2010
    • A hard 21-miles on Sunday and -still- feeling like crap?!!?

      Sunday was only 2 days ago! ; )

      I’ll feel like I’ve been run over by a truck 2-3days after a hard 20-minute Crossfit WOD.

      I would think running that type of distance at a hard pace would require a week of recovery (rest / active rest).

      wow.

      brian p wrote on February 23rd, 2010
      • Yes I think I am realizing that now, as I still am not myself! Thanks for the insight, Brian.

        Hugh wrote on February 25th, 2010
  29. Hey Mark, I may be an overtraining candidate but I just do not feel like it so needed your advice. I am 41, female weight 125-128 depending on the day. I do crossfit 4-5 times a week, eat primal, take vitamins, sleep very well, and have 3 kids, not too much stress…:0)
    In May 2009 I did fat testing and was at 21%. weight 124 fat free mass at 97.3
    November 2009 fat test again had increased to 22% weight 126 fat free mass at 97.99
    Feb 2010 fat at 24% weight at 128 fat free mass at 97.96
    My RMR has gone from 1189 to 1198 to 1203 which is below sedentary on the charts????
    Workouts have increased weight and recovery is speedy. Feel awesome so why the jump in body fat? weight I understand is muscle. Still same size in clothing but noticed a few small issues with some areas. Should I be doing less? I absolutely love going to my crossfit gym!!!! Have your book too by the way….feel the best i have ever in my life.

    MaryLou wrote on February 23rd, 2010
    • MaryLou I have had the same exact experience, went from 16% body fat in November 2011 to 20% in May 2012. I am 36, Now between 128 – 131 (in the fall it was more like 123 – 125) for weight and have three kids, do primal get enough sleep etc. The only thing that has changed for me in that time frame is I switched from a 3 times a week CrossFit schedule which I had been on for 6 months to 4 – 5 times a week. I am getting stronger and faster, but less lean. I recently cut back to three times a week at the gym and am trying to work in low level aerobic exercise (I used to run at a slow pace for 3 – 5 hours a week, now the gym has replaced that). I’ll let you know how it goes, but I really believe that if you don’t move frequently at a slower pace the leanness goes away.

      Aimee wrote on May 29th, 2012
  30. This is a very timely reminder to all the endurance athletes currently putting together their “race calendar” for 2010. I know several people who’ve already committed to marathons and triathlons in late summer or early fall – along with a few 1/2 marathons and century rides thrown in just to “stay in shape” prior to their big event.

    Having been down that route a number of times myself, I can tell you it’s not only exhausting, but it’s also quite miserable come July.

    Steve wrote on February 23rd, 2010
  31. Brian C touched on this, but for people fairly new to Primal (like me); one thing can look like (and feel like) overtraining that actually isn’t the traditional too much work problem. It’s too little calories!

    Switching to the Primal diet, I found that while I -thought- I was eating enough, I really wasn’t. I was down at the 1200 calories a day within my first week of switching. That wasn’t enough to fuel my runs. I didn’t work this out until I spent some quality time with Fitday. Now that I know that I was calorie deficient, adding more calories into the mix, I feel better overall, and my moderate (3x/week) running plan is pretty much back on track.

    Shaya wrote on February 23rd, 2010
  32. I was just telling my husband the other day that i wish there was a blood test you could do at home that would tell you all those nifty hormonal/insulin/etc values so that you would know EXACTLY what your body needs. I don’t trust myself when it comes to “listening” to my body (cuz i KNOW it’s lying to me!!). This not-listening has led to over-training and under-eating and under-training and over-eating. Very confusing, but your will help!

    Gina Worley wrote on February 23rd, 2010
  33. Wow. You have no idea how much I have pushed myself over the years following- TRUSTINGLY!!!!!!- the conventional wisdom workout way of thinking. I have walked away from my workouts, exhausted, dizzy, sore, and just altogether messed up. I have followed the primal blueprint diet/exercise for about seven weeks. The change is my diet has had a remarkable effect, but I still have to work on my attitude about working out- almost like a weird lingering kind of anxious pushing “or else.” Anyway, great post. I’m glad I’ve lived long enough for conventional wisdom about diet and exercise to be turned on its head.

    Samantha Moore wrote on February 23rd, 2010
  34. I was overtraining a couple of weeks ago and the way I could tell is that I gained 6 pounds in one week. I was doing spinning, running and weight lifting, so I toned it down and I started losing weight again.
    I don’t know how people on the Biggest Loser lose any weight after the first couple of weeks.

    colie wrote on February 23rd, 2010
  35. In past overtraining was a common thing for me. It took some time till I understood that less is better.

    Now I listen more to my body. I don’t have a strict schedule for my workouts. If I feel great – I will work out, if not – I’ll wait till the next day.

    TomGreenwald wrote on February 23rd, 2010
  36. I am one of those people who do a P90X/Insanity hybrid program. But I Do P90X for 1/2 of the video (2 times a week) and usually about 25 minutes of an insanity workout (1-2) times per week. Although i do play tennis for 2 hours, four times a week. I don’t feel any signs of overtraining. Oh. I also play hockey 1 to 2 times a week as well!

    Chad wrote on February 23rd, 2010
  37. Hi Mark, what are your thoughts on the crossfit regime of 3 days on, 1 day off? It is all pretty high-intensity stuff. I usually do 4 crossfit workouts a week, plus a day of sprints. And then there is tennis and Yoga thrown into the mix as well.

    I have noticed that the soundness of my sleep is quite varied. Some weeks I have uninterrupted and dreamless sleep for 8 hours every night. Some weeks I just can’t sleep well at all. I would be tossing and turning night after night.
    This article indicates that these are symptoms of overtraining and that I should scale back a bit. I will experiment with that, though it will be hard :-)

    And then there is the chronic DOMS, where depending on the workouts that comprise a given CF cycle, at least one part of me will be sore at any given point in time for weeks on end. Is this also a sign of overtraining?

    Great article as always,
    Thanks,
    Apurva

    Apurva Mehta wrote on February 23rd, 2010
  38. Just as an aside…I have always practiced resting every 13th week. It seems to be well documented that you should “de-load” on a regular basis and this means to shut down everything except passive exercise such as walking, light cycling, light stretching, Tai Chi…Do something, but make sure it is very passive.

    mikecheliak wrote on February 23rd, 2010
  39. Thank you for the article, Mark! I have already been aware of all the signs prior to you posting them but I am convinced that there cannot be enough articles about the dangers of overtraining.

    The two primary dangers of overtraining are the massive throwback in a competitive athlete’s schedule due to the strategic deconditioning you have to go through in order to compete properly again and even more the increased probability of injury with every step into overtraining. This is tightly correlated with the urge to do _even more_ once progress grinds to a halt – a downward spiral kicked off easily when you are in need of better performance.

    Your article is all about the indicators of overtraining. One indicator I particularly missed was the overwhelming want to skip training. Once you enter a state where you are constantly driven to find ways around workouts just because there is some indefinable reason you don’t want to do them you probably have been doing too much – it is a bodily signal to stop for a few days and kick things off once you are hungry for a really intense workout again. Of course, this applies to athletes who normally enjoy working out only.

    To me, this has been the best indicator next to abnormal pain and prolonged regeneration time.

    However (and this is a HUGE however) – there are lots and lots of people out there who are pathologically overcautious about the symptoms of overtraining. They much rather tend to _under_train than to ever overtrain, because they stop far too soon on the intensity escalade. I feel that people have to be willing to push themselves beyond their limits at least once to really get a feeling of what overreaching and finally overtraining feels like. Without this state ever experienced they will be unable to gauge their state of bodily exhaustion correctly.

    It is therefore once again essential that one knows oneself – where one’s limits and boundaries lie and how far they can be stretched effectively.

    I am a strong proponent of introspection – even in this mundane discipline of physical training.

    Simon wrote on February 23rd, 2010
  40. Great post.

    Fortunately I don’t run into any of those problems anymore :)

    I used to… but I am a little smarter these days I guess you could say, yay!

    Todd wrote on February 23rd, 2010

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