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Overtraining: Why It Happens, How To Spot It & How To Dig Yourself Out

  • By Jeff Gaudette
  • Published Jan. 22, 2014
  • Updated Jan. 22, 2014 at 8:21 AM UTC

Symptoms Of Overtraining

As I mentioned previously, it can be difficult to accurately determine if you are overtrained without a lab coat and fancy equipment. However, here are some clues you can use to help you determine if you’re recovering properly.

Heart Rate

During overtraining, you may have a higher than normal heart rate while resting and while sleeping. Record your heart rate each morning as soon as you wake up and before you get out of bed. Keep a small notebook by your night stand where you can record the data each day. If you find an extended period of time where your heart rate increases in the morning, you could be suffering the effects of overtraining.

Caveat: Heart rate can be affected my numerous factors outside running fitness or your training state. Stress, hydration, caffeine and hours of sleep are just some of the variables than can effect heart rate. Don’t get too worried about small fluctuations, instead look for ongoing trends.

Moodiness

Overtraining can lead to a decrease in hormone production, specifically the hormone catecholamine, which can influence the sympathetic nervous system. This can lead to increased feelings of stress and moodiness. If you’re feeling increasingly irritable or stressed, it might be a sign that you’re training too hard.

Susceptibility To Sickness

Overtraining impairs the immune system, which leaves you more susceptible to contracting colds, the flu, and other viruses. If you find yourself getting sick more than usual, especially repeated bouts of the same virus, it could be a sign of overtraining.

Disturbed Sleeping Patterns

Finally, overtraining interferes with the bodies circadian rhythms, which can cause you to have trouble sleeping. Symptoms include waking up much earlier than normal or trouble getting or staying asleep.

Caveat – circadian rhythms are also effected by seasonal changes in the amount of daylight available.  If you’re having trouble sleeping during a change in seasons, it could be a natural reaction to when the sun rises and sets.

While non of these symptoms should be taken as a clear indication of overtraining on their own, if you find that you’re experiencing three to four of these  indicators, it could be time to take a little rest.

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Jeff Gaudette

Jeff Gaudette

Jeff has been running for 13 years, at all levels of the sport. He was a two time Division-I All-American in Cross Country while at Brown University and competed professionally for 4 years after college for the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project. Jeff's writing has been featured in Running Times magazine, Endurance Magazine, as well as numerous local magazine fitness columns.

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