Overtraining in the General Population

Overtraining in the general population

What it means for performance

What is overtraining?

To overtrain is to work beyond the bodies capacity to recover.

Overtraining is caused by reduced recovery time between training efforts, or increased training intensity (frequency, load, duration).

The most easily felt symptoms are fatigue (despite good sleep and good quality food you’re still waking up tired), and underperformance (not hitting the mark).

Overtraining in the General Population - Overtraining

Overtraining symptoms

  • Fatigue and underperformance
  • Muscle soreness
  • Increased sensitivity to pain
  • Altered sleep pattern
  • Mood changes

What those symptoms mean

Fatigue is a message from our body, designed to facilitate rest and recovery. Messages can be delivered using the hormonal and nervous systems in the body.

Neural messages are usually felt as though we are wound up too tight. Our heart rate is elevated at rest, blood pressure can increase, vessels constrict, and our breathing is shallow and fast.

These physiological changes impact us on every level. From our organs, to muscle tissue, poor immune response, and sluggish mental and cognitive function. Of perhaps greatest interest to the active person is that the physiological changes, do increase the risk of injury.

The hormonal messages can show up as changes in mood such as finding it hard to “wind down”, or difficulty sleeping. Increases in stress hormones such as cortisol, and increased adrenal gland activity is another sign of the body working in overdrive. These hormones can be tested by your doctor.

How to treat it

Recovery needs to touch on four main areas.

  1. Physical
  • Reduce your training load
  • Book in for manual therapy treatment
  • Practice body awareness (stretch, walk barefoot, breathe and meditate)
  1. Mental
  • Know what you can control, and accept what you can’t. Your body will repair, and your training will resume.
  • Face the facts. Are you exceeding the recommendations for exercise? A trained health professional such as a Physiotherapist, or Exercise Physiologist can help you understand how much is enough, and how much is too much.
  • Shift your focus. Training is a part of life, not the only thing in life.
  1. Emotional
  • If you’ve used exercise for stress relief and resting causes you to feel irritable, maybe consider seeing a counsellor or meditation teacher.
  • Set goals. Write our clear, realistic and balanced goals for your training schedule. How can you factor in more time for rest and recovery?
Overtraining in the General Population - Overtraining

Knowledge is key

The World Health Organisations recommendations on Physical Activity are:

  • Adults aged 18-64 years can accumulate 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity OR 75 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise per week.
  • Muscle strengthening should be done on 2 or more days per week.

Exercise Physiologists are highly trained health professionals, who can give you expert guidance to ensure you’re training an appropriate amount


  • Overtraining leads to symptoms such as fatigue, underperformance, muscle soreness, and altered sleep cycles
  • Overtraining symptoms are messages, delivered by the bodies hormonal and nervous systems to encourage rest and repair.
  • Failure to acknowledge and respond to the symptoms can increase the likelihood of injury, and illness.

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