Overtraining Is A Real Thing


There’s something about exercise I didn’t use to think about too much because I used to think more exercise equals to more gains. I mean everyone is always on and on about how great exercise is for pretty much everything, so the logical belief is more exercise and the harder I work the better it is for me. Here’s the truth I learned through personal experience and my education as a personal trainer, rest, and recovery just as important as the time I put in sweating it out.  

Truthfully, there’s a level of addiction I must admit to training at higher intensities. I live for it! It’s the kind of thing I don’t mind getting up at 7am every day for because I know it’s always a thrill to get the rush of endorphins after each session. On top of my fast paced circuits, I started to incorporate weights into my routine too. This really upped the ante for me because adding weights not only increased the challenge, but also the results. It was an absolute rush! But, after several weeks of training at high intensities 5-6 days a week, things started to take a turn for me.

I no longer left sessions feeling energized, rather I left training sessions feeling sluggish and exhausted. I struggled to keep my energy up throughout the day. I was constantly fatigued and had endured prolonged DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). Another very interesting symptom was the change in my appetite. Having a high appetite is the norm for me as I have always been a very active person. I remember feeling confused. Initially, I didn’t think about it because fluctuations in appetite (especially for a woman) isn’t out of the ordinary. What ran through my mind at the time was how unusual my fluctuation was. Typically my appetite ranged from having a high appetite to a monstrous appetite, especially during certain periods of my menstrual cycle.  What raised a red flag for me, was realizing the reverse relationship between my appetite and how much energy I was burning. (Remember: I was training 5-6 days a week at high intensities and on average was completing circuits at about 75-85% of my maximum output for at least 45 minutes each session, and sometimes even scheduling two workouts a day). With this kind of energy output, my body should be screaming for fuel, but the reverse was happening.

Another thing I noticed was the fact that I felt my workouts were getting harder (when I was essentially doing similar things at similar intensities). I found it more difficult to complete some of the same exercises. It didn’t make any sense at all. How can I find these exercises more difficult when I’ve been training harder? How can my fitness level drop when I have been training harder? These were the questions which ran through my mind. Until I came across the subject of overtraining syndrome in my education as a personal trainer.

The known symptoms of overtraining are varied in people. It ranges from physiological to emotional changes, and therefore is very specific to the individual who are experiencing the symptoms. The symptoms I endured may be shared with others experiencing overtraining, but the symptoms aren’t mandatory.

For reference, here are the known symptoms:

  • A decline in physical performance with continued training

  • Elevated heart rate and blood lactate levels at a fixed submaximal work rate

  • Change in appetite

  • Weight loss

  • Sleep disturbances

  • Multiple colds or sore throats

  • Irritability, restlessness, excitability, and/or anxiousness

  • Loss of motivation and vigor

  • Lack of mental concentration and focus

  • Lack of appreciation for things that are normally enjoyable

What I learnt is how important it is to dedicate proper attention towards rest and recovery. I need to be realistic about my level of fitness and allow a realistic progression versus an everyday burnout. I need to accept that my body is not made to go at 100% everyday. It’s about embracing the cycle of work and recovery.


Bryant, Cedric X., and Daniel J. Green. ACE Personal Trainer Manual: The Ultimate Resource for Fitness Professionals. 5th ed. San Diego, CA: American Council on Exercise, n.d. Print.