Can you overtrain? Is it possible?

What exactly is overtraining?
Natural athletes’ train to increase performance in their chosen sport. To increase performance training loads must be increased. This is usually done in a periodised program that incorporates a gradual training load increase with adequate recovery. Overreaching is where loads lead to performance decrements that require recovery which can be days or weeks. If this is not implemented adequately and overreaching is extreme this can lead to Overtraining syndrome (OTS). This can lead to many symptoms that are outlined below.

Parasympathetic alteration

  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Bradycardia
  • Loss of motivation


  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Tachycardia
  • Hypertension
  • Restlessness

Other Symptoms

  • Weight loss
  • Decreased
  • Heavy, sore stiff
  • Waking unrefreshed

How do we diagnose OTS?
There is actually no way to diagnose OTS. As this is a syndrome it is a collective number of symptoms that leads towards a condition. There have been studies which have examined biochemical markers in blood. These markers include cortisone levels, Immunological marks, hormone marks and vitamin levels, etc. These have all been shown varied results. Most studies have agreed that psychological distress is required for the diagnosis of OTS. Psychological distress accompanied by a full subjective examination that creates a clinical picture is the most accurate way to diagnose OTS.

What are the treatment options?
Treatment for OTS is quite simple, take a break and rest. This break can be anywhere from days to weeks, even months. However, if you are experiencing burnout it is time to take time for yourself and heal. During this time, take time away from the sport or activity and give yourself time to recover. This can be done by including massages, walks and or anything else you enjoy.

Is prevention key?
There are a few things that can be done to avoid OTS. These include monitoring training load, ensuring adequate recovery, periodised programs with a de-load week every 4-6 weeks, hydration, diet, sleep, tapering for competition, and even performing mood questionnaires on yourself. Ask the people around you if your mood as changed if so alter your training load.

Click here to book in now with one of our physios that are based in Sinnamon Park. Our physios will be able to diagnose and provide advice on how to best manage your situation.

Read more….

To learn more about measuring exercise intensity, check out our blog HERE
To learn more about returning to exercise after injury, check out our blog HERE
To learn more about muscle cramps, check out our blog HERE

Kreher, J. B., & Schwartz, J. B. (2012). Overtraining syndrome: a practical guide. Sports health, 4(2), 128–138. https://doi.org/10.1177/1941738111434406

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