How Do You Know If You Are Over Training?

Over-training is a term brandished around athletes all the time and occasionally it is assumed injury is the inevitable outcome but can you be sure over-training was the cause of an injury? Could your nutrition be the reason you had an injury? Is training tired normal and something you just need to deal with? Read on to find out more.


Over-training or under-recovery is a balance that many athletes try to negotiate. When you use the phrase "under-recovery" it is far easier to see just how many factors can push you over the edge and into the over-training symptom list. Clearly training is considered the bad guy in this scenario, but is it really the case?

Often one of the first questions asked by coaches is how many hours can you train per week and when. In reality, the real question should be how often can you recover and when. Suddenly, we can see how prioritising training over recovery can lead to under-recovery regardless if an athlete is training full time or squeezing in 6 hours per week around a busy schedule. If they don't recover, it doesn't matter how small or large the training dose is, there is a likelihood that the athlete is over reaching.

Common Symptoms of Over Training/under recovery:

  • Loss of motivation, lacking in energy, feeling drained

  • Irritability and anxiety

  • Lack of ability to recover from sessions and mild, persistant muscle soreness

  • Drop in performance

  • Depression

  • Loss of appetite and weight loss

  • Repeated illness or infection or increased injury rate due to lower white blood cells and platelets

  • Lower sex drive

  • Lower testosterone levels

  • Raised inflammatory markers like Ferratin

Preventative Rather Than Reactive

Generally speaking, it is important for the athlete to be totally honest with themselves about these areas, to recognise the symptoms before they become any more than just a conversation along the lines of "I need a rest day"! It is also worth noting that recovery has a far-reaching blanket to include more than just "do nothing". 

Diet and nutrition need to be adequate, massage, active recovery, training intensities and psychological recovery all need to be considered. A rest day for example would not be: a stressful work function you have been organising for weeks which has to go well where you will give a big speech/pitch and a dinner after the event where you won't finish until late. Just because there is no training, doesn't mean that it is restful! Coach Sorrel uses the term "Rest Day" to describe exactly that, a day of rest, whereas "Non-Training Day" is used to describe days where life gets in the way of training and it certainly was not restful!

It is easy for you or anyone else to suggest that you, the athlete, needs to mentally dig to get over these hiccups – and clearly there are times to push. However, if these are persistent symptoms, it is time to be honest with yourself and take some time out. Whatever damage that does to your pride is significantly better than going past the point of no return and struggling to recover.