How can you tell if you’re overtraining?

Last Modified: 10/01/2021


This post was written by Tiffany Patterson, performance specialist, Parkview Sports Medicine.

Overtraining is when the number of days you work out (frequency), the volume (sets/reps) or level of effort (intensity) is too high without enough recovery, rest or nutrient intake. When this accumulation becomes too high, long-term decrements can occur.

There are two classifications of too much exercise: overreaching and overtraining. When excessive training leads to a short-term response, this is known as overreaching and normally resolves in a few days or weeks. If an individual chooses to ignore the signs of overreaching and continue the intensity and training stimulus, this will then lead to overtraining which can last for several weeks to months.

When training, the goal should always be to allow the body gradual overload so adaptations can occur. This then correlates to improved performance levels.

Signs of overtraining

There are a variety of warning signals the body sends when an individual is experiencing overtraining, including:

  • Decrease in performance levels
  • Decrease in motivation
  • Persistent fatigue
  • Loss of enthusiasm in training
  • Regularly getting injured
  • Increased soreness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Decreased immune system
  • Increased sympathetic stress response
  • Altered resting heart rate and decreased heart rate variability
How to avoid overtraining

Stick to a training plan that progressively overloads the body. Remember, too much too fast will lead to overtraining. Progressive overload is when there is a gradual increase with the stress placed upon the body. This could be the amount of training days, the amount of weight and/or the sets or reps. Take the time to make small adjustments in a training plan each week with the frequency, volume and intensity.

Take rest days to let your body recover, get enough nutrient intake, sleep and hydration to help avoid overtraining.



Reference: Haff, G. Gregory, editor. Triplett, N. Travis, editor. (2016) Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning (4th ed.). Human Kinetics.


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