Overtraining: When Pushing Hard Is Harmful

With so much emphasis placed on increasing physical activity, we hear very little about overtraining. For competitive athletes and some recreational athletes, however, overtraining can be a serious problem.

The definition of overtraining is personal. It is the point at which an athlete is training so hard and for so many hours that recovery does not occur with usual periods of rest. Athletic performance demands a balance of extreme effort and recovery. The athlete must expend a tremendous amount of energy on some days and also determine an adequate, but not excessive, number of days off, to be spent either resting completely or exercising with less intensity.

Many recreational and competitive athletes tend to think that more exercise and effort is always better. Even if they are aware of the facts, the tendency is to want to exert themselves a little longer and little harder during the next workout.
Symptoms of overtraining

Fatigue is one of the earliest symptoms of overtraining. Some experts call the earliest symptoms, those that resolve quickly if you just decrease the workout intensity on every third or fourth day, overreaching rather than overtraining.

If you continue overreaching without recovery, you may experience some of these symptoms of overtraining:



Decreased appetite

Restless sleep

Loss of sexual desire

More aches and pains

Declining athletic performance

In the more severe form of the overtraining syndrome, the following can occur:


Menstrual irregularities in women

More significant sleep problems

Prolonged muscle soreness

Markedly diminished athletic performance