Symptoms of overtraining syndrome

Overtraining syndrome can happen to everyone, you don’t need to be an elite athlete. There are many signs and symptoms which might indicate overtraining or overreaching syndrome. These symptoms are easy to ignore as we all sometimes feel tired and fatigue. So, when it’s the right time to stop and consider things again?

Overreaching or Overtraining

Functional overreaching – temporary performance decrement because of increased training, last days to weeks, positive outcome

Nonfunctional overreaching – longer performance decrement because of intense training, but full recovery after rest, last weeks to months, the negative outcome – loss of training time

Overtraining syndrome – long performance decrement, last months, the possible end of the athletic career, the negative outcome

Overtraining symptoms

There are multiple different symptoms, which may vary between individuals. Some can get many different symptoms while others might suffer only a couple.

The most common symptoms are; mood swings, loss of appetite, frequent colds and infections, elevated resting heart rate, muscle soreness, persistent fatigue, struggling with training and performance, lack of focus and sleep issues.

Some of the symptoms might lead even worse scenario, for example, loss of appetite can lead to anorexia. Also, symptoms can work together, which might make them stronger.

Possible causes

As there are many symptoms there are many possible causes for overtraining syndrome. And again some of them might work together and attract others. It’s important to consider other factors and not only training and training load effect on overtraining.

Training based causes: athletes training too hard on recovery days, long or multiple competitive seasons, stress capacity, genetics, inadequate nutrition and training program design flaws. Training program design flaws include; exercise selection, exercise execution, exercise frequency, an abrupt increase in volume-load, excessive duration, training multiple times per day, excessive volume, lack of monitoring, monotonous training and excessive intensity.

Other causes: additional stress (emotional, occupational, environmental, etc.), training status, training history, poor communication between coach and athlete, prior/reoccurring illness and insufficient sleep.

Tips to avoid

Coach role: individualize training, adjust training load when performance declines, communication with the athlete, avoid monotony training and take account of multiple stressors.

Athlete role: Optimize recovery (sleep, nutrition), communication with the coach, train less if excessive fatigue appears and stop training when suffering from an infection.


Rest, rest and rest. Also seek medical or other professional help, especially if the symptoms are bad and caused other illness such as anorexia, severe sleep problems, etc.

Kreher, J. B., & Schwartz, J. B. (2012). Overtraining syndrome: a practical guide. Sports health4(2), 128-138.

Carter, J. G., Potter, A. W., & Brooks, K. A. (2014). Overtraining syndrome: causes, consequences, and methods for prevention. J. Sport Hum. Perform2(2), 1-4.

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