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:

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  1. Yep, I was experiencing #1, 2, 6, and 8 and I thought I just had to try harder and do more. Turns out I had muscular dystrophy, at age 47, so I was breaking down muscle tissue but was unable to rebuild.

    Katy wrote on February 23rd, 2010
  2. If you start listening to country music,you might be overtraining:-)

    john wrote on February 23rd, 2010
    • Why is there no CSI Nashville? The murder investigation of a red neck leads to all the DNA samples being the same and no dental records!

      Kishore wrote on February 23rd, 2010
  3. Hey Mark, Great Post! I was also wondering about crossfit WODs and how many times a week to do them. :)

    Angie wrote on February 23rd, 2010
  4. I tried P90X for a bit there, but for some reason the way the program is set up doesn’t work for me. One hour every day was too much. However, I found that when I switched to lifting heavy, sprinting, and then following up with some low-intensity cardio, I worked out for just as long but felt better. Of course, I only work out four days a week instead of six.

    I’m definitely not showing signs of overtraining — I feel awesome when I’m done with my workout. But at least now I know what to look for!

    Deanna wrote on February 23rd, 2010
    • For an average person with a full-time job and other life stressors, 3-4 days of quality workouts is more than enough. Also, you might have more fast twitch fibres. Which means you respond to heavier weights, lower reps and plenty of sets. Simple test: take an exercise like squat. Let’s say you can do a maximum of 1 rep with 100lbs. See how many reps you can do with 85lbs. If you fall in the 3-8 reps range, you are more fast twitch dominant. If you can do 10+ reps, you’re more slow twitch.

      Kishore wrote on February 23rd, 2010
  5. I found that once I got back into a fitness routine, even harder that finding time to exercise was learning when to not exercise. Interspersing rest/move slowly/play days between heavy lifting, sprinting or other hard workouts is a good start. The thing is that sometimes only one day of moving slowly in between classic “hard” workouts is not enough to allow for adequate recovery. The other thing to consider is that while some activities could in general be considered appropriate for an “easy” day, such as yoga, not all yoga practices qualify as “easy” (maybe none do!) but in my personal experience (tomorrow at noon) an intense Ashtanga workout would be equivalent to a tough body weight workout (since that’s basically what it is, really, with more stretching while performing the many strengthening exercises). Similarly, some “play” activities would rate on the harder end of the scale and would also warrant an extra day of rest before resuming more intense activities.

    Chris Sturdy wrote on February 23rd, 2010
  6. Hi Mark,

    I suffered with overtraining over a year ago and am still feeling the consequences.

    I was training for my second half marathon, en route to my first marathon, and pushed way too hard. I now suffer with bad knee pain whenever I walk any medium-long distance. Despite many tests doctors cannot find the cause though have suggested a possible tear to the meniscus cartilage.

    I recently purchased a copy of your book and am excited about making the transition to primal living. I’m concerned though that I may not be able to commit fully due to my injuries. Do you have any suggestions?

    Thanks,

    Francesca

    Francesca wrote on February 24th, 2010
  7. Hi Mark, like the post a few above, I’d love to hear your thoughts on Crossfit in this context. I have a background like yours (IM, Marathon etc). I have more recently fallen in love with Crossfit and PB. However the potential for overtraining with Crossfit has crossed my mind. Basically if I sleep in, I take it as a sign that I need a rest and try not to stress about the missed workout, so in fact I end up with four to five WODs a week. I have read your thoughts elsewhere – where you acknowledge you wouldn’t be doing it six days a week, and I understand you are generally a fan of crossfit – but what are your thoughts for a reasonably fit and healthy forty year old? Is five sessions still too much a week, given your point 3 above? I use a scaled version of crossfit workouts, not the full load. Love your work, and would love to hear your thoughts on this

    PJ wrote on February 24th, 2010
  8. Ick…

    Here I am wondering why my heartbeat feels funny, my legs are stiff (dreading staircases certainly hit home), and yesterday was a rest day! So was it the excess coffee or the workout that’s doing this to me? Anyways, I’ve been doing the fitness routine for only a few weeks now, and just finished week one of being mostly-primal (no refined sugars, no grains). Of course, this could just be the response to regular physical activity after about 2 months straight of video games and sugar binges.

    I work 2 overnights a week–that’s not very primal. But ARGH. I had a very restless sleep during the day yesterday.

    Perhaps tomorrow should be a rest-day too?

    Mickey wrote on February 24th, 2010
  9. Brilliant, thanks Mark, I’m really glad I asked.

    Appears there are lots of folk out there feeling like I do!

    Biggest take home message for me – LISTEN TO YOUR BODY! If I’d done that two months ago whilst pushing through yet more programmed chronic cardio workouts whilst under considerable stress outwith my sporting life I wouldn’t have had to take most of February off!

    Kelda wrote on February 24th, 2010
  10. This is a brilliant post.

    Here’s something to think about: professional athletes train to a peak for a season, or even for one event in a year. They have an off-season. They do not maintain their peak year round. Off-season, they cross-train, maintain their base, rest, recover.

    The reason it is so important to know when you have hit a peak in training is that just on the other side of that apex of peformance is overtraining, and eventually injury and illness.

    We regular people who have somehow managed to train to a peak often don’t understand that a fitness peak CANNOT BE MAINTAINED INDEFINITELY WITHOUT SOME PERIODICITY. Fitness gains are not infinitely linear with an ascending X-value. There is a point where Y descends, and that’s at the point just past peak, and into overtraining.

    In light of Grok’s paradigm, I often think back to my Crossfit days and wonder just how functional all that puking and collapsing on the floor was several times a week. Great position for a predator to jump upon you, no?

    Most hard-core fitness folks I know do not recover enough. Yeah, maybe you can keep going when you are twenty and thirty—at least you feel as if you can keep going forever—but you can’t. If you dance on the edge of overtraining for too long, it will come back to bite you on your rock-hard gluteuses. (Gluteii?)

    Once you reach a fitness peak, it’s time to do something different. Go on a long, leisurely hike. Spend a week at the beach, taking short little swims, and build some giant sand castles. Go tour a museum. Read a book—about something other than fitness—or take a class in digital photography. Learn to forage, or go on a mushroom hunt. Do something other train hard for a little while. When you get back to training, you will lift heavier, run faster, and feel better.

    Sooze

    PrimalWannabeGirl wrote on February 24th, 2010
    • Go tell my former coach that! LOL! I kept feeding back ‘that was hard’ ‘I’m getting tired’ ‘my legs are sore’ etc, etc. The programme just kept on coming and I felt the failure for not completing it, doh … more fool me for not seeing the light earlier.

      And when I did quit, the response was ‘you seem to have changed your goals in the last few months’. Hell, yes, I suddenly realised I wanted a life!

      Grok on folks :-)

      Kelda wrote on February 24th, 2010
  11. It seems to me we have more endurance athletes here than I would have expected. Burnout and overtraining would be more common for us.Don’t forget, as you get older, you need more recovery time!
    There is a new book by Friel/Cordain out, how to combine a primal diet with endurance sports.I would be interested to see a review of it here.

    Digger wrote on February 24th, 2010
  12. Mark,
    Great post. After 2 weeks of chronic cardio, I ended up with severe BP numbers late in the evening, soreness, increase in appetite and sleeplessness. I had no idea why this was the case. After digging into this subject you’ve mentioned here before, I backed off on my regimen of 6 days a week. Feeling more rested now and improving on my workouts. This article speaks directly to me.

    Cheers,
    dan

    Daniel Merk wrote on February 24th, 2010
  13. It’s hard for me to fathem less is more. After reading tim ferriss four hour work week on how h became super human in one month is hard to believe. I did the body for life challenge working out 6 days a week and eating 6 meals a day. Very hard. But I did great. Cut body fat in half. Lost 24 pounds of fat and gained 7 of muscle. Not I needto drop a little more body fat but gain 10 or more pounds of muscle. Trying to decide on a new workout. 4 weeks beats 12 weeks

    Matt wrote on February 24th, 2010
  14. I do have that ‘fear’… What if I lose it all? Do I need to work extra hard to keep it off? Should I do exactly what I’m doing now? Should I do less?
    What if I ‘calm it’ down and start gaining it all back, even if I am eating primal…?
    These are just some of the questions that plague my mind, and I haven’t even lost a pound :P
    So I can imagine why some would overwork themselves into oblivion (is that analogy even possible? :D).

    Sometimes PB seems way to easy for our naturally overcomplicating minds to comprehend; we need it to be hard work :P

    NoSaladWithoutMeat wrote on February 24th, 2010
  15. Incresed heart rate, blood pressure, joint and muscle aches, headaches, hand tremors, insomnia, and loss of appetite can also be signs of overtraining.

    Chris wrote on February 24th, 2010
  16. I know am overtraining when I dread my afternoon workout *in the morning*!!!!! Also sleeplessness and moodiness (er, my boyfriend will stifle a laugh at that one) are usually signs as well.

    I’m currently finishing an entire week off from crossfit. I normally take off a cycle + bookended rest days (5 total) every 2 months. I know I was overtraining because only now am I beginning to miss it.

    Any thoughts on how long recovery from overtraining? Guess it depends on how long one was overtraining, huh?

    StrongLilPony wrote on February 26th, 2010
    • I ground to a halt during a turbo session (did one hour of three and simply got off the bike) the day after binning half a swim set following a tough 80 min run (I’m a triathlete).

      That was the end of a very hard 12 week programme of 10-15 hours a week, much in the chronic cardio range. I was coached. It’s only since finding Primal Blueprint I’ve realised just how mad what I was doing really was. Stepping back has really given me perspective again!

      That was the beginning of February, in the last few days I’ve felt like I wanted to train again. During the more than 3 weeks ‘off’ I’ve done little more than walk, 30 min easy sessions (run/swim) and some weights, as and when I felt like it.

      I noticed that when I did do a turbo session with a group last Saturday (50 mins) my heart rate was still more elevated than was normal. However, today I did a test set after lots more rest, working very hard for 30 mins to see where I’m at and I’ve recovered.

      From now on it’s slowly, cautiously back into a structure but nothing like what dug me into the hole in the first place!

      I actually feel enthused today, first time in months and months, and other than a sore calf from trying my Vibram 5 toes too enthusiastically on the treadmill (!), I feel great, the best in ages, and I’m sleeping again :-)

      Kelda wrote on February 26th, 2010
  17. I experienced overtraining during April and May of ’09. One thing that
    needs to be emphasized is that you may also be overLIVING. In my case, I
    was in the middle of my first round of P90X, took a ski trip to Utah in
    March where I probably did way too many hike-to’s (I’ve since learned from
    “The Paleo Diet for Athletes” that acute exposure to training at altitude
    can be a contributing factor to overtraining), came back home and immediately resumed P90X. It may have been possible to handle this training volume alone, however, I was also in the middle of the most stressful project of my professional career by a large margin. Also, working for an auto supplier, in ’09 meant the constant threat of layoffs. I wasn’t primal at the time and generally wasn’t eating enough or properly. One important thing I didn’t understand at the time is that both the physical stress of training and the mental stress of work BOTH can contribute to overtraining.

    From my experience, overtraining is definitely something you want to avoid.
    I had all the warning signs, but ignored them because at the time I
    had never heard of overtraining. I ended up feeling like I had the flu for
    about two months. I went to the doctor during this and he was unable to find any active infection but did find that my gamma globulins (immunity markers) were quite low and ordered an ultrasound to check the state of my organs. The ultrasound showed an enlarged spleen. He then referred me to a hematologist who, after running more blood tests that showed low gamma
    globulins and white blood cell counts, ordered a CT scan to check for
    lymphoma. Thankfully the CT scan came back negative (waiting for the
    results was extremely stressful, however). That resulted in me having to go back every two months to check my immunity levels. I had taken two
    months off from working out and when the nightmare of a project I was
    involved with at work ended at the beginning of July ’09, I resumed
    P90X / Running / Mountain Biking throughout the rest of the summer and unsurprisingly, my numbers continued to stay low. I started reading more about training and came across the concept of overtraining and realized that this is what I had done to myself.

    Around October, my wife was diagnosed with Adrenal Fatigue. Her doctor gave her some fairly strict dietary guidelines that she was initially very confused about. I recognized the concepts he proposed as being basically Paleo/Primal based on some articles I had read in the past. In an effort to help her, I started reading The Paleo Diet for Athletes, The Primal Blueprint, and Nutrition and Physical Degeneration and realized that this is not only the way she should be eating to repair her adrenal fatigue, but it is how we should all be eating.

    We both immediately employed a hybrid of the Paleo/Primal plan and Weston A Price principles. For the past four months I have limited my workouts to the 70% Max HR range, have been eating Primally, and have been taking high-vitamin fermented cod liver oil. After my last blood test at the beginning of February the hematologist said that my white cell count is normal. I am now starting to get back into some more challenging workouts based on what I learned from P90X, but will not do the program exactly as prescribed – I do think it is probably excessive. Instead, I am going to make my training more Primal.

    Stack-O-Lee wrote on February 26th, 2010
    • Yes, I should have mentioned the stress in other areas of life … when I found myself fatiqued, demotivated and awake for night after night I spent a lot of time on the internet researching overtraining, and indeed emailed Mark to ask him to cover the topic (which he’s done brilliantly here).

      I found one article which described how stress in your life outside your sport can contribute to overtraining, and that’s the aspect that isn’t taken into account by people and by coaches.

      It actually makes sense when you think about it because it’s still the same fight or flight chemicals that are being released. When I set my training programme against the background of the stress I’ve been under, chronically for 4-5 years but more acutely in the last 7 months when my daughter disappeared from home without warning, it is clear to see why I had a problem. What may have appeared at face value to be a programme unlikely to cause overtraining (although with my new knowledge now I can see it was too much for good health) when combined with stressors outside of the training it was enough to cause a significant problem.

      What’s frustrating is my coach knew all about my stress levels but saw keeping me ‘at it’ as a way for me to maintain mental stability, unfortunately a more holistic approach (particularly for age groupers) just doesn’t seem to exist with some coaches.

      Apart from listening to your physical body, the early signs are definitely motivational I think, as soon as you are not looking forward to a session, or desperate for that ‘rest’ week to appear or glad to have ‘legitimate’ reasons not to train, you are already a long way down the road to oblivion!

      Kelda wrote on February 27th, 2010
  18. I always fall victim to overtraining. 3 weeks ago i changed my running from fat burning to high intensity interval training. i do this 3x per week, and i lift weights heavy 2 times a week. I am sick as a dog. My immune system is wrecked. I have to take 1-2 weeks off to recover. It’s hard for me to cut back on exercise since i’m one of those routine type of guys.

    rat193 wrote on March 15th, 2010
  19. Thank you very much for the tips. Resting is super important when dealing with the goals that you want to hit. I defintley learned this the hard way. Less is more.

    Jon wrote on March 27th, 2010
  20. A year ago today I spent two months in Nepal doing a high altitude study (lost about a 1/2lb. a day but that’s another topic). Anyway, felt great, climbed steep and deep, slept on plywood, ate the processed junk food that they had available and was never sore! We called it the “sherpa shuffle” These people move and smile all day with giant loads of weight and hang out below their anaerobic threshold. So we did the same.
    This past February ’10 I did 3 intense days up Mt. Katahdin, ME; with a pretty heavy pack. Pushed to keep up with the boys, woke up more and more sore everyday plus the stress of being lost in a whiteout atop the peak. It took me over two weeks to flush the pain out of my body.
    Comparison, Nepal makes me happy and we moved slowly frequently, Maine is nice (Mark’s home state;P) But the workload was too intense to illicit the same enjoyment I had over such a longer period of time in the himalaya’s. We tried to shove way too much into 3 days of hard work and my body payed for it in the weeks to follow.
    I also was not primal during either of these experiences. But this is a good example of pure physiological stress and where the “mind is at” and the effects on the body. . .Intense!
    Great post, thanks Mark, and I can relate to you all. I just went primal and have been catchin up with the archives, got to be careful it doesn’t compromise my move slowly and frequently gig. LOL.

    Allison wrote on April 2nd, 2010
  21. You must definitely listen to your body. Craving extra sleep, not able to complete a workout, dreading training, and I really like to workout, are signs of over training. Take off enough time until your mind and body get the “gotta train itch”.

    Mike wrote on June 21st, 2010
  22. I can remain in a constant state of soreness for many days, sometimes as much as a week or two. Also associated are cramping of the lower limbs, feet, calfs, quads.

    I drink lots of water, and make it a point in consume large amounts of antioxidant rich foods. But still.

    I’m currently trying to step up my protein intake via muscle milk shakes. Approx. 6 servings or 160g on top of my normal lean meat consumption.

    C. Rauth wrote on July 2nd, 2010
  23. 49 yr.old male – Have been training intensely since 14-15 yrs old. I generally perform heavy weight workouts(squats, power cleans, bench press),weighted pull-ups and dips, plyometrics, jogging, biking,and both uphill runs using a weight vest and standard 100 yrd sprints. I try to incorporate all of these within a 2 week training period. I generally work out every week, and take only a day or two off per week.
    Based on my current condition of being highly iritable, depressed, stomach problems, headaches and feeling like crap almost constantly – I know this is severe overtraining. No more great feelings after workouts, no more skin splitting pumps. You got in right on all counts, more people need to be aware of this condition. Unless someone is using performance enhancers, you cannot continue to gain and grow at this age, Just need to accept it and maintian a good balance between health and fitness.

    Great article

    Phil wrote on February 17th, 2011
  24. 47 yo male here. Have been pushing myself with heavy weights and extreme cardio 3 times/week for the last two years. I eat healthy and get good sleep. However, I’ve had the symptoms of OT the past year, which steadily got worse as time went on. The heavy workouts, coupled with some emotional issues (family death and such), plus some intense projects at home finally took it’s tool. I was getting muscle tense and nervousness a day or two after workouts and my digestive system went to pits (bloating, loose stools, some nausea). i thought it was anxiety, but that just didn’t fit the picture. Staying off the workouts for a few days made everything go away except the digestive problems. I hear that takes much longer to fix.

    greg wrote on February 27th, 2011
  25. I have been doing CF for 3 years. It is easy to overtrain because it is such a fun activity. After reading primal blueprint I backed off on my training and have been trying to manage stress better. Low and behold; after 4 days of fishing (still eating paleo of course exept for the beer and some Jack)I thought for sure I would gain pounds. Actually lost 1 pound. Great info. Thanks

    Bryce wrote on April 6th, 2011
  26. Such a good article. I find myself reading this a few times a year..:)

    Barbara wrote on April 14th, 2011
  27. I have been limping through all of my workouts lately and it feels to my very similar to how I feel when I am anemic. I know I am not anemic now though. The main thing is the dramatic increase in running mileage for the past 3 months. I thought I could become some super “ultra” trail runner only to find that looking back, the majority of my workouts I was “over reaching” to get in the designated mileage. I am now paying the price. It takes all the energy I can muster to don my run shoes and head out the door. I know I need to stop and relax. Old habits are hard to break though. Ironically, when I had far less time I was kinda a CF junkie. And you know, back then, with so much less overall weekly training, I was absolutely ripped. Now, I am prob a pound or two more but still pretty leaned out. I think my body responds to shorter training sessions vs. these super long runs. I guess I am just not made for that kind of pummeling. But it has been nice to hit some awesome trails and get OUT of the gym. CF is great- but being outside is so much overall better for mental sanity (hence the ultra trail running focus). I guess its all just about balance- we all are made different and respond different and we need to make adjustments for our own individual responses to all external stimuli.

    Kelly wrote on May 20th, 2011
  28. the funny thing is that my prs in the mile are 4:50 2mile:10:51 and the 800:2:12 and the 3 mile:17:36 i feel like im overtrained my legs have been tightening up and my leaness is going away and after what i usually run im sooo tired and i dont feel like i run enough! soo after a season is over i suggest that everyone should be taking long period breaks like 2 weeks with no running and after the break start easily and gradually get back up to where you were.

    Billy wrote on May 23rd, 2011
  29. ^
    ps. Im only a sophomore in highschool

    Billy wrote on May 23rd, 2011
  30. Hey greg i think after 6 months of serious strength training and stuff like that maybe you should take some time off like i do maybe for 2 weeks since weights are bad for the joints

    Billy wrote on May 23rd, 2011
  31. Hi Mark. I’m a 50 year old male. I have been working on my total gym for several months and also begin working out every day on the ABS program which has you lift weights. Your Over Training article caught my attention because I recently developed shoulder R and L pain, and numbness in both hands especially my fingers. I was wondering if over training has caused my symptoms?

    Guy wrote on June 19th, 2011
  32. Hi Mark. I’m a 50 year old male. I have been working on my total gym for several months and also begin working out every day on the ABS program which has you lift weights. Your Over Training article caught my attention because I recently developed shoulder R and L pain, and numbness in both hands especially my fingers. I was wondering if over training has caused my symptoms? I would greatly appreciate any suggestions and recommendations.

    Guy wrote on June 19th, 2011
  33. Luckily I try not to do more than 3-4 times a week specially because I’m starting off and CrossFit is pretty kick ass but I really like this post. I am actually trying to work out at least half of the time while I’m on vacation and I know that time is of great value. If I feel rushed I usually don’t do it. But I think that one indication to me is limping, unfortunately I know I have a lot of issues with my lower extremities and limping means I need to focus on a stretch rather than a workout.

    Mariajose wrote on June 24th, 2011
  34. I’m just in one of these periods, just two days ago I tested myself against the chrono with my bike. 18 km in 29 minutes sharp with a great average speed around 37km/h I was feeling very good.

    Here comes the second day feeling like an old truck, I will rest for a couple days more and hope to be back on track soon. The “I’m useless” feeling could not be more spot on.

    Aaron N Lozano wrote on June 28th, 2011
  35. i train heavy everyday with both heavy cardio and weight training and I only feel poorly when I do not eat enough. If you are trying lose a noticeable portion of your gut after each workout of course you are not going to feel good if you are running on that much of a caloric deficit. I have not had a single day off in several months…I do not work the same muscles each day however but I do cardio each day…You condition yourself to be able to handle whatever workouts you do consistently. Cortisol levels do not get high in conditioned athletes as they do with novice trainers. My point is just that its all too easy to say that you are working too hard and you deserve extra off time when chances are you are not working hard enough and you are just making excuses. You can push yourself as hard as you think that you can…what about mind over matter or has everyone succumbed to being weak and are just grabbing at any excuses they can to do less and feel good about it.

    josh wrote on July 19th, 2011
    • haha!!!! that’s so true man.

      Gizzy wrote on October 10th, 2011
  36. As a stubborn hardcore trainer I have recentely paid a price for my ignorant train till ya drop attitude. After not training for a couple of months I thought I would get back into the gym and pick up where I left off, meaning 7 day training 1-2hrs per day each body part twice per week and from eating whatever I liked to a full protein diet. My immune system was obviously affected as I developed shingles(dormant chicken pox) brought on by high stress levels and low immunity. Lesson lear’nt!!

    Dale wrote on August 17th, 2011
  37. I know for a fact that I been being over trained for the past months..I play highschool football and I know my knowledge about working out and recovery, and what my coach is doing is horribly wrong.. he’s got us lifting running and hitting everyday mon-fri. the only rest days I have are the weekends. and on those days I feel horrible. before I started football I had much more cuts and muscle, looking at me now, football decreased my performance. I’m just happy there’s only two weeks left of it. I love the sport, but I just wish we had a smarter coach :/

    Gizzy wrote on October 10th, 2011
  38. Wow, this is me this past summer and fall (BP – Before Primal). I was eating rice and beans for lunch every day, pushing grains; running a fast 5.5 miles while my little girl rode along on her bike, even though my left hip muscles were hurting;sleeping 6 hours a night… I came down with a monstrous respiratory infection that required 18 days of antibiotics, ending with Cipro. Right at that time, I’d started learning about the Carb-Craze lie I’d bought fully into via Wheat Belly, and then a link to your site about “Chronic Cardio”. I’m on lesson 6… and after 32 years as a runner, my little mind is being blown by how I’ve had it all wrong… I feel incredibly better and LOOK more fit with just 45 days of no grains and slowing the heck down.

    Joy Beer wrote on December 25th, 2011
  39. Trying to figure out currently if I am overtrained or my issues are due to the weird auto-immune issues i’ve developed

    Melissa wrote on January 12th, 2012
  40. I have been feeling extremely rundown and tired and not wanting to do anything – kinda hard when I have an 8 month old to take care of.
    I started Primal a few weeks ago, I do cardio on my exercise bike 5-6days a week 45-90mins a day depending on how I feel.I strength train 3x/wk and I have been feeling so sleepy lately – not wanting to get out of bed or wanting to clean and not looking forward to working out like I used to.Now I have to force myself to do it because I want to lose 80 pounds (more like 70 probably because I think I’ve gained muscle).
    The sad part is, I’m so tired&feel weak sometimes but this whole time I feel like I haven’t been doing enough, ya know? Like I could always do more or else I’ll seem lazy or useless

    Can anyone tell me what is wrong with me?? Am I training to hard or not enough or what? I’m so frustrated about it. I just want to lose weight and feel better but most of all I want and NEED more energy.

    Before you ask, I have like 6-10 servings of veggies a day (usually green beans because I’m really into them right now) and a hamburger or porkchop 3x/day plus a tbs of mayo 2x/day
    I snack on a handful of almonds (and I have little hands – I’m only 4’9″)

    I don’t eat very much because I’m usually not that hungry except lately I feel ravenous but I don’t know if it’s because of my exercise or if I’m PMSing

    I’m so sorry it’s such a long post but I have no idea who to ask anymore.Doctors never did anything to help, my holistic nutrition had me try adrenal supplements but they’re not doing anything anymore.

    So my basic schedule
    Every day – 3 beef patties or pork chops,6-10 servings of green beans,2 servings of almonds,
    Strength training days – above plus 1 serving egg protein powder+1 banana+1 serving almond milk just to get more protein in after strength training

    Mon,Wed,Fri – Strength Train can vary from gym weights (leg press,shoulder press,chest press, fly, pulldowns) to workouts I find on youtube or simple things like lunges,squats,pushups,crunches

    Mon-Sat at least 45 mins cardio

    Sun – rest day which doesn’t seem to come quick enough lately

    Every day I also clean and take care of&play with my 8 month old son who is a workout all by himself lol

    My husband thinks I work too much but I think I work too little since he’s the one who goes&earns money&stay at home

    Anyway, if anyone could help me, you would be everything I’ve ever asked for.

    -Rachel

    Rachel A wrote on January 19th, 2012

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