Personal trainers who work with athletes or those involved in intense exercise programs need to be aware of a condition called overtraining syndrome. This is a real phenomenon and is different than feelings muscle soreness (DOMS) which happens a day or two after exercise. I feel this overtraining syndrome may be underdiagnosed in both fitness trainers and in the general population who works out regularly. So what is over-training syndrome? Let's cover what it is, how to recognize it and minimize your risk of getting it.
What Is Over-Training Syndrome?
Over-training syndrome is a condition that occurs when you exercise intensely for a long time (weeks to months) without giving yourself enough rest. Any type of physical activity that you do long enough has the potential to cause overtraining. While some say overtraining occurs only in people preparing for intense exercise events – like training for a marathon – it can also happen to those who do traditional exercise programs in fitness centers.
For example, you could get over training from doing too many :
- Zumba classes
- Indoor cycling classes
- Bootcamp classes
or just working out on your own in the gym every day. If you do the activity long enough and too intensely for your body to handle -and don't get enough rest, you are at risk for overtraining syndrome.
Signs Of Overtraining Syndrome
The diagnosis of over-training is usually made when you have several of the symptoms associated with it. The more symptoms you have, the more likely it is for you to be over-training. Here are 5 common signs of overtraining which are usually reported:
- Increased resting heart rate
- More frequent colds/flu
- Inability to sleep
- Mood changes
- Decreased exercise performance
If I thought you might be overtraining, these would be 5 things I would ask you about. The more of these you had, the more I'd start to think you were over-training
Notice #1 and #2 in the list above. Increased resting heart rate and getting sick more often. This suggests that over-exercising is associated with disturbances in both the nervous system and immune system.
Finding your resting heart rate, can be difficult to figure out – unless you used a wearable device (apple watch/fitbit.) that gave you this information. You don't need a device to figure this out, however. You can easily determine what your resting heart rate is by taking it yourself. Here's a quick video to show you how:
The only thing I'd add to this video is when you take your resting hart rate start with “1” not zero. Also, I prefer to take RHR for 60 seconds and not 10 seconds as this video says.
Other Signs Of Over Training
While the 5 signs mentioned above are common, over-training can also be associated with other things too. Here are some additional signs to be on the lookout for:
- Loss of coordination
- Loss of muscle strength
- Loss of muscle and cardiovascular endurance
- Reduced appetite
- Constant fatigue
- Elevated blood pressure
Some of these symptoms can be vague and may even be signs of other things. This is what makes over-training sometimes difficult to diagnose.
Is It Over Training Or Rhabdo?
In the list above, notice #6 is rhabdomyolysis (rhabdo). Rhabdomyolysis is a medical condition where your muscle fibers die, releasing toxins into the blood which can be harmful. Many things can cause rhabdo including too much exercise.
To be frank, rhabdo is scary. Many people with rhabdo end up in the hospital. But how do you know if you have over training or rhabdo? While I agree if you have muscle fiber death, you are definitely over-training, I don't really consider rhabdo a classic sign of overtraining syndrome. It's a fine line but here's how I would tell them apart:
- Overtraining usually takes weeks to months to develop
- Rhabdo often happens after only 1 workout
So, while rhabdo would technically be a sign of over-exercising, if you started to develop muscle pain, swelling, and fatigue after just 1 workout, I'd suspect rhabdo and not overtraining syndrome.
I'm the author of the first book on rhabdo and exercise. I lecture and write extensively about this condition. For more info see these:
- My rhabdo book
- Is it rhabdo or DOMS
- Can you have a mild case of rhabdo
- Video: Rhabdo: Not once but twice!
- Can you die from rhabdo?
- Rhabdo from spinning classes
- Video: Rhabdo from group exercise class
- Why rhabdo is happening in fitness centers
- Rhabdo and personal training
- Video: 3 things about rhabdo most people don't know
How To Recover From Overtraining Syndrome
Overtraining does not happen overnight. It takes several weeks to months to get this condition. Because of this it also does not go away quickly either. In the past, I've met people who have told me it's taken them up to a year to fully recover from this condition. That is not to say it will take you a year.
Recovery from over-exercising is probably different for most people. It likely varies by how bad of a case you had and what you do to help yourself recover. To help you recover from overtraining, here are some things I'd suggest
- Reduce your exercise intensity and the time you exercise
- Start tracking your resting heart rate
- Eat more fruits and vegetables
- Start tracking how many hours of sleep you are getting
Two ways you will know are the road to recovery is when you start to notice your resting heart rate lowering and you don't get sick as much anymore.
About exercise, while I'd usually don't say to avoid exercise, if you had a bad case, I would not be opposed to taking a week or so off. Generally, though, cut back your exercise intensity and length of time you exercise to about 40% of what you usually do. For example, if you worked out an hour a day 7 days a week, reduce it to no more than 40 minutes a day 3 days a week.
This is a general recommendation. There are no official “return to exercise guidelines” when it comes to overtraining.
Eating more fruits and vegetables is my personal recommendation. We know these foods contain antioxidants that can protect us from free radicals. But they can also help strengthen our immune systems. Fruits and vegetables can also help improve our microbiome – the bacteria living inside of us. Those bacteria do many things including helping keep our immune systems strong.
You don't necessarily need to take a probiotic supplement but in theory, bolstering glutathione levels might help. Some people I've talked to swear by take glutamine supplements too.
Can You Recover From Overtraining?
Yes, you can. It takes time but if you dedicate yourself to sensible exercise, good nutrition and getting enough sleep, most people make full recoveries from overtraining syndrome.
I’ve been dealing with anxiety problems for the past 5 years. it’s just been chest related skipped heart beats, chest pains, high heart rate. But in the past year it’s been getting slowly worse and it’s gotten out of control.
About 8 months ago I started experiencing extreme dizziness,vertigo, feeling like I’m about to pass out etc. and I’ve been having those 24/7 non stop sometimes it would get better sometimes get worse.
I’ve been a pro tennis player and ever since I quit I’ve been doing CrossFit. in the past 1 and a half years (about when things started slowly getting worse) I’ve been training really intensely about 4 a day of heavy lifting and intense cardio sessions. I haven’t stooped training since I’ve started having dizziness and vertigo / feeling like passing out and been going full on since my therapist says it’s just anxiety related.
Do you think any of those could be over-training related/my central nervous system being tired and not recovering?
Thank you so much
Hi Nikita, Have you seen a physician about this? If not, the first thing I’d suggest is go to your doctor/cardiologist and let’s see whats going on. The doctor will run some tests and that at least may help give you some answers about what is happening. Do you know what your resting heart rate is? For someone working out as hard as you are, I’d expect your resting heart rate would be in the 50s-60s range. If your in the 80s or more, that could be a sign of overt-raining.
Obviously its impossible to really know for sure if you are experiencing over training just from resting heart rate. Have you tried reducing your exercise intensity and days per week of exercise to see if things get better?
Chest pains, skipped heart beats and feelings like you are going to pass out could be due to stress or something else. That’s why I feel getting checked out by a doctor – preferably a cardiologist – is the way to go.
I hope some of this helps Nikita. Please keep me updated on how you are doing.
Jay Sheer says
Hi Joe, I wrote you another message about a $11 million law suit taking place in Oregon. Your expert testimony may be necessary since I don’t believe anyone has studied or has your knowledge in this field. I hope they contact you for your knowledge.
Hi Jay, Yes, I’m just getting in now and saw your email. Yes, I saw the reports yesterday about the rhabdo lawsuit at the University of Oregon. One of the football players -Doug Brenner is suing the coach, the Univ or Oregon and the NCAA for 11.5 million. I’m not familiar with the case other than what I’ve read. Time will tell what happens.
Thanks for this review. I did not know about resting heart rate being a sign of over training. I teach cycling and Zumba classes 5 days week and am going to start writing down my heart rate in the AM before I get out of bed. Again, thanks!
Hi Jill, thanks so much I am really glad you learned about resting heart rate 🙂
I think I may be experiencing over training and wanted to ask your opinion. I recently switched from a powerlifting style to Olympic lifting. My training was always very intense during powerlifting and would last about 90 minutes with cardio but Olympic lifting is extremely intense. My sessions are lasting at least 2 hours everyday. Most days I go for a max lift because I’m new and developing technique but this also requires a lot of mental pshyching up which I have read is bad as well.
Over the past month my resting heart rate has gone up from a usual reading of 58-64 to 73-77. However when im relaxing my heart rate can still get back to the low 60s high 50s. But during normal daily activities like doing dishes it can get up to 100. Ive also been having chest pain. I also had bronchitis two weeks ago and as soon I felt better (4 days after antibiotics i went back to training) .
For a while I was having very disturbed sleep even though I was very tired. But now I can sleep forever on days that I dont work im sleeping about 10 hours. Ive took two days off and tried to work out today but could not I felt like my heart was beating very hard and I felt weak. This is the first time I felt week though. So im curious as to whether this sounds more like an overtraining issue or more like a being sick issue?
Joe Cannon says
Hi Daniella, it sounds like you could be experiencing over training syndrome that is compounded by bronchitis. One thing I would say is that since you are new to Olympic lifts, you should not be going for max lifts. Olympic lifting require a lot of skill. you need to be proficient at doing the lifts the right way with lighter weights first. Who told you to go max lifts when you are a novice?
Also, when you do go for your max weight, you should not do it every time. Remember the body gets stronger when you rest. if you keep pounding your body with your max, it will eventually bite you in the butt with injuries.
While Olympic lifts are not my area of expertise, I dont think your workouts should last 2 hours.
I’m concerned at the idea of you working out when you have chest pains. Maybe its part of the bronchitis but I’d still like you to go to your doctor about this.
Chest pains aside, it sounds like you are exhausted too. While I might normally recommend you take 1-2 weeks off completely, In your case, Id amend this to however longer it took for you to be fully recovered from bronchitis (and those chest pains too) before going back to this.
I hope this helps and do keep me posted on your progress.
Can you have OTS caused by an infection? I had one, got miss-diagnosed and received several antibiotics… During that period of illness/infection I continued training 9-12 hours a week (cycling and trailrunning). Now I’m extremely tired, dizzy, concentration loss and very acceptable for colds and flu…
Joe Cannon says
Zedd, I dont think the infection itself caused over training syndrome but its possible that the infection contributed to it when combined with exercise. Ultimately its hard to say but that would be my guess.
People,I worked out for over 20 years and after the age of 44 i started having a lot of over training symptoms..Blurred vision, fatigue , muscle pains, HBP and etc and i took me 5 months to recover…
I’ve seen and hear people live 90 and 100 years old with no exercise program…It’s the image we want and see from tv and other places but we don’t see the outcome of their health conditions..It’s not worth it when you get over a certain age because of the body ability to recover and it does take awhile…
After i took months off from the gym and just did some minor exercises , all my symptoms went away and i feel better and will never go back to that state of mind again …
Joe Cannon says
Devin, really glad to hear you are doing well again 🙂
hi, i came across your article… if i over-trained for a week.. and now have a insomnia.. i would definitely stop and physical activity but do you know how long it will take to be back normal? I’ve trained only for two weeks cardio going from 15 to 30minutes light running but last five days in a row made 40 minutes of biking with 9km/h in the gym and tonight i got the insomnia..://
Joe Cannon says
Malden, while I cant be sure, since you just started working out, I wonder if you are experiencing “over reaching’ rather than overtraining. Think of over-reaching as “pre-overtraining.” I dont think it would take more than a few weeks to get back to normal. it just sounds like you did a bit too much at first. try to reduce the time you are working out and the intensity and see if that helps you sleep better.
Im 26 years old, fit and active. I train 3 times a week in the gym lifting weights but i dont do any cardio there, i play soccer on Saturdays for my local team, so i count that as my cardio.
I drink 5-6 glasses of water a day and eat as healthy as i can. I weigh 154 pounds but i only consume around 90 grams of protein a day except at the weekends when its much less.
My weight lifting program consists of Monday- shoulders,legs and stomach. Wednesdays- chest, legs and stomach and Fridays- back, forearms and stomach.
Ive been training for solid for 2 years now, taking a week off every few months, i also have only just started training my legs in the last 4 months!
I work full-time Monday to Friday and also at the weekend when i can. In my job i have to work shifts, which are different every other week. One week i work 6AM-2PM, sometimes i stop in till 4PM and the next week i work 2PM-10PM but again i do a bit of overtime and will go in to work at 12PM.
Because of these working hours my sleep pattern is different from week to week. I generally get 5-7 hours sleep a night.
About 1 month ago i went to the gym on a Wednesday and did my usual chest, legs and stomach exercises. After i finished i felt good a bit out of breath but generally good.
The next day i woke up and felt absolutely drained! Even after a decent (for me) 7 hours sleep.
My calves were the 2 muscles that were effected the most . They didn’t feel sore, just completely fatigued.
I took it steady the next day and went back to the gym on Friday to do my back. I only managed 3 exercises before i had to stop! I still felt i had strength to carry on but I felt a little light headed and my heart was pounding, so i decided to go home and rest.
The next day i had a soccer match and i couldn’t get going at all! Like Deanna said it also felt for me like everything was 10 times harder. I also had a beer after the match which didn’t really help either.
I booked the following week off work to rest and recover but it didn’t really do anything and it still left me feeling drained mainly in my calves.
I went to the doctors after i returned back to work and they just said that i had strained my calf muscles and to take anti-inflammatory painkillers even though they dont feel inflamed or swollen, however my left Achilles tendon has been constantly sore ever since i first started training my legs.
I did feel like i was starting to get better over the next week although my legs still felt quite drained. I decided to go to work last Sunday for a few hours, i then followed that by doing a 10 hour shift the next day.
I woke up Tuesday feeling like i did after that gym session a month ago, completely shattered! and i still am despite getting 6-7 hours sleep, although i have been waking up a couple of times throughout the nights.
I feel as if im suffering from most of the symptoms of overtraining but my rhr seems to range from 66bpm-78bpm which i thought was normal, my immune system seems to be in a good state, no colds or sickness and i have not lost my appetite.
I have not trained for a month now and really want to be lifting again. Rest is my best option but how long will i have to rest up for before i can hit the gym again lifting smaller weights to begin with?
Many thanks Daniel
Joe Cannon says
Hi Daniel, I understand your frustration but it really does sound like rest is your best option now. Remember that working out doesnt have to mean go to the gym. you can ride a bike or take a walk – as long as it doesn’t over tax your Achilles tendon.
Based on what you said, I think your getting enough protein. Generally for people who exercise 0.6-0.9 grams are usually enough. since your 154 lb and getting 90 grams per day, most days, that’s about 0.6 grams per pound, which is fine. Your different sleep pattern might play a role in your being tired but its hard to say. I’d say listen to your body and dont rush things and try not to feel frustrated over your not working out as you’d like.
Joe, I have been training for boxing for the last year but have increased intensity and workout time a lot in the last few months. I have also been trying to lose weight which has worked well. Just recently the last few weeks I haven’t been able to complete my workouts and am finding it harder than usual and aching a lot more.
I took a week of and went back and still felt rubbish would this be overtraining? If so should I stop working out and will it really take years before I can return to normal?
Joe Cannon says
Steve, do you have the more common symptoms of over training syndrome like elevated resting heart rate, trouble sleeping or do you feel like you’re getting sick a lot more than usual? There is another condition called “Over Reaching” which you can think of as “pre-overtraining syndrome.” Its possible either of these might be going on. It sounds like you have been doing a lot – dropping weight at the same time increasing the intensity of the workouts. If you still dont feel great, take another week off. You dont have to be a “lump” in that week so feel free to take an easy walk or bike ride if you like or go bowling. Increase your calories a bit also as this can help your body recover.
when you do go back to the gym, start back slowly and see how you feel. Don’t do the same intensity of work out as before but rather maybe only do 40-50% of what you usually would do and see how that goes. This might take some time (weeks or more) so you may not expect to feel “back to normal” right away. Hope that helps.
I didn’t note my resting heart rate before I have been feeling the symptoms so I’m not sure how I could figure that one out. I have been feeling as if I have had a cold a lot of the time general aches and not feeling 100%. I am going to take another week of and then go back as I will be starting boxing again soon. When would you think I can hit it at 100% effort again as I need a lot of hiit training to get fighting fit. Thank you for your reply.
Joe Cannon says
Steve, I wish I could give you a definitive answer on when you can go back to 100% but youll just have to take it day by day and see how you feel. I recommend starting back slowly.
Take your resting heart rate each week and write it down. Normal healthy resting heart rates range from 60 beats per min to 100 beats per min (most people range from 60 to 80). People who work out regularly can have resting rates of less than 60. If you have a smart phone, there is a free app that take it.
Found this today. I think I’m suffering from over training but it’s been hard to diagnose because I’ve had so many other things going on. I’ve NEVER had exercise induced fatigue like this before, even when I had an eating disorder in high school and early college.
Have you found that extreme emotional stress + intense exercising can cause over training? Because the exercise alone has never caused me to have something like this happen, but I had an extreme emotional stressor in January, and these symptoms started in Feb. I am just not sure how to rectify the hole I’ve dug myself into, because I’ve taken time off here and there and it hasn’t seemed to help yet 🙁
Joe Cannon says
Rachel, its possible the combination of emotional and physical stress caused over training. we are all interconnected and it is a fact that emotions play a role in how the immune system works. One think I would suggest is to try to eat healthy if you are not already. foods help us heal – both physically and emotionally.
Here it is: https://supplementclarity.com/quick-easy-smoothie-recipee/
Some research has seen low levels of glutamine in people with over training syndrome. Glutamine is something we make naturally so you are making it right now. would a little extra glutamine help you get better faster? I’m not sure. But, if you want to give it a try I’ll be interested in learning if it helped you or not.
Focus on trying not to be frustrated over this. I know thats hard Rachel. Something that makes me feel more at ease is realizing that things happen for a reason – even bad things. I try to wonder “what can I learn from this?” I try to turn a negative into a positive. If you do that, eat well, and give it time, I really do think you will get better.
Do keep me posted on how things go for you and have a great holiday weekend 🙂
Thanks for your input, Joe. I do have an appointment with my doctor next week and I was planning to get some blood work done as well as a thyroid check. I’m not feeling as tired as I was but I still feel quite low on energy. I’m taking time off from the gym this week and resting as much as I can when I’m not at work. I’ll let you know what I find out after I get my blood work results back. Thanks again!
Hi Joe, I am suspicious that I might have overtraining syndrome. I go to the gym on average 5-6 days a week and rest 1-2 days a week. I have been doing so for 3 years. I alternate my days at the gym between weights one day and cardio the next. For cardio I do either distance runs: 5-6km or do interval sprint runs where I jog for 30secs then sprint for 30secs, repeat, then walk for 1min. Usually I reach or almost reach my max heart rate during this.
For weights, my workouts usually lasts 60-90mins. I do 4-5 sets of each exercise, 8 reps per set, using the heaviest or almost heaviest weights I can handle. I am also using an assisted pull up machine to help eventually be able to do pull ups on my own, right now I am lifting 75% of my body weight on the machine. At the end of my weight lifting, I am drenched in sweat but I have always been a sweater. I am well hydrated, drink the necessary fluids (water or Gatorade, depending on the activity) and always drink 8-10 glasses of water a day.
I also play ball hockey. My position is center and it is extremely high intensity. I have been playing every summer for 5 years but this year I am in the best shape I’ve ever been in and for that reason, I can and have been playing extremely hard, harder than in previous years.
In the past 2 weeks, I have been feeling very tired, almost exhausted. I feel like I could sleep for days. I know at any point during the day if I were to lie down in bed, I would sleep. I have no energy at all and even after waking up in the morning, I don’t feel at all rested (although to be fair, I’ve felt like this almost my whole life) but lately, it does seem to be worse than usual. I get about 8-9hrs of sleep a night, never solid though because I always wake up briefly 1-4 times a night (my norm for years).
I have noticed a major decrease in my appetite which is alarming for me because I normally have a ferocious appetite. I am hardly ever hungry lately and I know as a result I have been eating much less. I keep a healthy diet, extra healthy actually and make a point to avoid any foods that aren’t healthy. I take vitamins/supplements as well. I physically have always felt great because of my healthy diet and proper food intake.
I have been feeling very unmotivated lately as well. Almost depressed, but definitely unhappy. I do have a few high stress situations in my life right now, in 3 major areas of my life. More so in the past couple weeks, I have been feeling like nothing is enjoyable and nothing is making me feel happy. I can’t remember a day during these couple weeks that I felt content or not completely drained.
I am noticing during my weight lifting workouts that I am struggling to lift what I normally lift. And in order to finish my sets, I have to decrease the weight. Sometimes this happens to me anyway if I have missed a few days at the gym, which I have because I’ve been too tired to go.
Last night, I had a ball hockey game. I felt like I had no get up and go like I normally do. I was extremely tired and the whole game I felt like I had no gas in the tank. I normally play and run hard but I was feeling almost weak during the whole game. The running I normally do seemed to be extra hard to do. A few hours after the game, I got a bad headache- this has been happening almost every time now after any cardio workout- however, last night along with the headache I was nausous and actually got sick. I went to bed, had to get up through the night to take Tylenol because my head was still pounding.
This morning I took my RHR: 50. I stood up and took it again, it was 60, then took it again after 60secs, it was 65.
One thing I’m not is sore or in pain. I feel fine physically other than my lack of energy.
Do you think this is a case of overtraining syndrome or just lack of energy from the stress in my life and not eating enough food lately? What would you suggest I should do in the case this is from overtraining and for how long should I do it for?
I hate the idea of having to sit out and rest up because I don’t want to lose the muscle I have gained or the progress I’ve made in my running goals. I do understand that sometimes the reality is that you have no choice but to rest and recovery if that is what you need. I guess I’m just hoping it wouldn’t have to be for long and that I’ll be feeling like my normal self again soon.
Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
Joe Cannon says
Hi Deanna, based on what you said its possible but your resting heart rate is still pretty low (it would be nice to know what its been before these symptoms started showing up). That said if you do have over training syndrome then you dont have to stop working out, just curtail it for a while until you start to feel better. It could be you dont have over training (yet) but rather another condition called “over reaching.” Think of this as pre-overtraining syndrome.
you wont lose any muscle or fitness if you take a week off. I know thats hard to do but just wanted to toss it out to you. you can still do stuff in that week, just not as strenuous as you usually do. go for a bike ride or walk around the neighborhood for example
Another thing, have you ever had your thyroid checked? Sometimes we feel really tired when we are hypo-thyroid. A doctor could do a simple “TSH test” and find this out.
I hope some of this helps Deanna. keep in touch and let me know how you are doing 🙂
You have brought up such an interesting topic. Let me give you a little personal history. I am now 52 years old. For the past 25 years I have always pushed myself very hard and intentionally only slept 4-5 hours a night. I would workout many times of the day. Lots of jogging, hiking, biking, tennis, weights and yoga.
Doing air traffic control, I had to work crazy hours, a work shift for the week would be M4pm-12am, T3pm-11pm, W7am-3pm, R6am-2pm, F12am-8am.
My first symptoms of overtraining and lack of sleep 20 years ago would be debilitating knee pain. All of a sudden I would get throbbing knee pain that develop out of nowhere with no warning! I would see numerous doctors and they could not detect what the problem was. The pain in my knee would mysteriously go away as fast as it came, but could last for 6-9 months, even with total rest. It was very frustrating because there was no warning that I was overloading my knees, the pain would just strike without any earlier symptoms that I needed to proceed carefully. I would get episodes like this for the next 10-15 years.
Several years ago, I was training with a friend and was considering training for my first marathon. I didn’t get too far into the process of running. When running a 5-7 mile course, all of a sudden I got a sharp pain on the inside of my right ankle. Once again, the doctors found nothing structurally wrong with my foot and ankle. This time the pain was bad enough that i couldn’t sleep without waking up after a couple hours. Also this time the pain never went away!
After 3 years I had a doctor remove my accessory navicular bone in an attempt to relieve the pain. After the surgery the ankle did feel better and I thought I was on the road to recovery. I put on 40 pounds since I was confined mostly to a couch. So I decided to try an easy 2 mile hike to start my rehab. Well at the end of the hike both of my feet were in pain! The pain would be some kind of inflammation but not painful to the touch. It was like someone tied your shoes on too tight but unfortunately there was no way to loosen the laces. A top orthopedic doctor told me I had foot structural problems and I thought I would be walking around in pain for the rest of my life.
Though he was the only doctor who thought that was the problem. All the other doctors found nothing wrong or went with catchphrase “arthritis”. After years of suffering and no answers my body was extremely weak. My symptoms now were 2-3 hours of sleep, constant foot pain, pain in my solar plexus(like someone was constantly punching me in the gut), extreme weakness, fogginess.
Luckily I stumbled on a naturopath and finally my problem started slowly getting solved. She knew my sleep pattern was probably my biggest problem, but since I was working such difficult hours at work I couldn’t get it under control. Also I had developed bad allergies, mostly to many foods. My diet was restricted to the “caveman” variety but also could not eat dairy.
Finally I retired from work 2 months ago and am slowly improving. My food allergies are gone and I am sleeping 4-5 hours a night. The pain in my solar plexus is gone and my feet inflammation is down 80% to the point where i have done up to 5 miles of easy jogging.
But now I am realizing that my exercise is probably having an adverse affect on me at this point. Every time I start to feel a little better, I try to push my exercise some more and my fatigue comes back and I start to sleep even more poorly again.
So after reading your article I am going to just do easy 1 mile walks this summer , play 9 holes of golf and do easy yoga. And you are right I was one of those stubborn people who was doing P90x too intensely.
Sorry if I am a little too wordy with my experiences, feel free to edit this as you please. I am glad that somebody is talking about these problems because I had a very hard time finding answers to all my ailments over many years. If you like I will keep you updated on my progress.
Thanks, Steve P.S. I will watch the resting heart rate closely
Joe Cannon says
Steve, that is really fascinating (and frustrating) all that you went through with the doctors, pain etc. Im glad you finally found somebody who is able to help you. Hopefully by taking it a bit easier, your symptoms will improve further. We all have to tell ourselves we are not “bullet proof” and that’s hard for even me to come to grips with at times. keep me posted on your progress.
Excellent article Joe. I believe I have been suffering from overtraining syndrome for several years now.I just retired from air traffic control but have not improved that much. My symptoms are joint inflammation, only 2-4 hours of sleep, numerous food allergies(or intolerances), weakness and fogginess. I have exercised everyday for many years, so now i believe this is the major cause. All medical exams have come back normal. I also do believe that it is going to take 6-12 months of total rest with very little- to no exercise before I get healthy again.
If you have anymore input I will gladly take it.
Joe Cannon says
Thanks Steve, I wish I knew of some supplement that would help. Except for what I see on glutamine being lower in marathon runners etc Im not sure. I think the best thing is to reduce workout intensity and start keeping tabs of your resting heart rate. I wonder if meditation may help also? Since you wont lose any fitness in a week or 2, taking a week off from the gym wont hurt you and may just help.
Tamryn- Lee Goddard says
i started running when i was sixteen. The whole reason i started was to deal with emotional demons and my problems. I haven’t stopped since then and i am 20 now. I run approximately 5 km every morning at five sometimes ending with hill sprints at the end and a swim straight after. In the afternoons i gym again and run some more or spin or anything that leaves me exhausted and sweating. If i have an emotional stress or if i eat any carbohydrates or sugars i will run again immediately afterwards in fear of gaining weight. I rest only on sundays, otherwise i run every morning come rain or snow and exercise again in the afternoons. I ride my horse as well and do ballroom ha ha ..
I know i have a problem, most of its psychologically based in that if i do not run or train i feel very guilty and that i am slacking etc and i get very moody if someone tries to stop me from training. I know i need a break, i am tired throughout the day and have many other of the symptoms shown above. I literally know that i cannot stop exercising altogether, what can i do?? Please help.
Joe Cannon says
Tammy, can I suggest you speak to somebody about why you feel the way you do. Exercise can be a good way to deal with stress but it wont help us deal with “emotional demons” in the way the leads to long term happiness. I’d seek out a psychologist. If you can find one who has some background in exercise-addiction, I think that would be an added bonus. I do hope some of this helps. I will say a prayer for you tonight Tammy.
I need help I overtrained bad last year in 2012, I lost a large amount of weight, started feeling and looking great, thought to myself let me bump it up a notch and did same muscles and a alot of cardio everyday and it knocked me on my ass, it’s been 11 months since I’ve been to the gym, at first I caught panic attacks, lightheaded dizzy, and balance was off and couldn’t sleep, since then I want to get back into the gym but I get sharp pains through out my chest that come and go and I’m out of breathe and my heart pounds when I walk up a 2 flights of stairs, I want to get back in the gym so bad and miss that feeling of a great work out…looking for help in recovery
Joe Cannon says
Karma, did you ever go to the doctor and ask about this? Its been 11 months since working out and you still get lightheaded and dizzy and have chest pains when you go to the gym? I recommend you go to your doctor, tell him/her these symptoms and see what they think. Im not convinced this is over training syndrome but I want a doctor giving you feedback on this before you workout. I think this is the best course of action.
Please let me know what your doctor says.
Now I know what I have. OTS! I was a good Marathon Runner in the 80s (2:27 PR in 90 Degrees), but started having real problems. I was tired all the time. My ability to run continue decreasing with time, to the point that I gave up. I haven’t run in years. Doctors didn’t know what I had!…Now, what is you advise for me to deal with my problem?
Thank you in advance!
Joe Cannon says
Juan, if you have not run in years, I guess you probably dont have over training syndrome anymore. To avoid it in the future, start your workouts slowy. dont try to workout 7 days a week right away. take your resting heart rate now and keep tabs of it. it may start to go down when you begin to work out regularly. this is normal. if you start to notice it going up ever, cut back on workouts till it returns to a lower level again.
I am was a distance runner and was diagnosed with over-training syndrome 2 1/2 years ago. It took me an entire year to recover. Right now I consider returning into competitive running. Am I more prone to another case of over training than those who have never had it?
Johannes, Ive never heard that those who have had over training syndrome are more likely to get it again. I think if anything you may be less likely to get it because you know what to look for and what the symptoms are like.
I have over exercised for many years. I would eat what I want in a portion control and wonder why I’m not loosing weight. I have OCD so I am prone to addictive behaviors. When I would work out four hours a day and hour for my second session in a day, I would get sick easily, low energy, and not workout for fun.
Right now I’m trying to take a break but unsure for how long I need to and can I get back to exercising after a month doing different workouts and finally loose weight?
Would my body be plateauing because working out too much or because two workouts I do often or because too in shape. Unsure what to do right now. I’m taking a break but moderately doing active things. My body goes through withdrawal like symptoms. Any suggestions are welcome!!! Thank you!!! 🙂
Joe Cannon says
Sabrina, take your resting heart rate this week before you get out of bed. write it down. Lets use that as a guage as to when you can get back to working out at a higher level. right now I suggest you reduce the intensity of your workouts to about 30-40% of what you normally do. Aim for circuit training, light weights high reps (15-20 reps) and only 1 set per exercise. Do this 2 days per week at most. reduce intensity of cardio also to walking and dont do more than 30-45 min of easy intensity.
make sure your getting enough sleep also and dont neglect eating well too.
over-training can take months to get better. I dont think 1 month will get the job done. look at how you are feeling -emotionally, mentally and physically as a gauge to when to go back to your normal workout routine. Do keep tabs of your resting heart rate. its probalby higher now than usual. if it starts to go down, thats a good sign usually.
The trick is to not go crazy over this. I understand being OCD about exercise. just keep telling yourself that the light at the end of the tunnel will show up. You can get through this. it will just take a little time.
Another brilliant topic, Joe. I’m loving the fact that no matter what random page I select, I’m welcomed with some wisdom that, quite literally, forbids me from leaving the page until I’ve read from top to bottom.
I was born and raised in Australia and had a lot of close friends train for the Australian Football League. The competition only took elite – and I mean, machine-line athletes – and witnessed a handful of my friends suffer from much of what you’ve outlined above. Many people probably assume that the more you work out the better off you’re going to be but even the fittest of engines needs a rest every now and then, huh?
Joe Cannon says
BJ absolutely! I have a buddy in Australia hes an exercise physiologist too. His website is DrBillofHealth.com
I’ll be sure to check it out, Joe!
Thanks for the heads-up! 🙂
My fiance attributes every negative symptom I manifest to over- training. I always felt that if I am over training I would lose too much weight. Now I realize its the training part that can be over done whether one loses weight or not. I’ve been cutting it down to one hour 4-5 days a week instead of my former marathon sessions. We’ll see how it goes in 2012. Hey Joe, Merry Christmas, Seasons Greetings, Happy Holidays to you!
Joe Cannon says
Christallin, yes indeed that’s what can happen. Listen to that fiance, hes a smart cookie! Merry Christmas!!