The Overtraining Myth…

Someone who I train on occasion recently said to me was that he thought he was “overtraining.” Now this is not the first time I have had this mentioned to me and I am sure many coach or trainer has had this said to them before. The fact is when someone says they are “overtraining” to me it is them saying they are either (a) tired or (b) bored.

Wikipedia- the font of all human knowledge gives the definition….

Overtraining is a physical, behavioral, and emotional condition that occurs when the volume and intensity of an individual’s exercise exceeds their recovery capacity. They cease making progress, and can even begin to lose strength and fitness. Overtraining is a common problem in weight training, but it can also be experienced by runners and other athletes.

In laymens terms you are training too much for your body to recover so in effect your results go backwards. To this individual who mentioned overtraining to me my first question was “Why do you think that?” His answer “I just feel a bit tired.”

While not immediatly throwing a Snickers Bar at him and shouting “Grrr… Get Some Nuts!!!” we had a look at his programme and compared to the general recomendations for “health” he exceeded these recomendations by about 5 hours a week. However, this does not mean he was overtraining- yes, he was training a lot but 8 scheduled hours of training is not overtraining, especially if you are an amateur athlete. 

We reviewed his sleep patterns and his nutrition. Well, this is where we got our breakthrough. “Has your regular trainer looked at your diet?” I asked “Not really, I tend to avoid most carbohydrates though…” was the answer. On further review this guy in general was filling up on protein shakes, tins of tuna, fish oil capsuels and lettuce. He was tired not because he was overtraining- he was tired because he was not fueling his body to train or recover.

This is all too common-  a lot of people now are so conscious of body fat gains that they effectively can not train hard because they do not eat enough- usually in part due to ineffective dietry recommendations or a “system” of dieting which does not give flexibility to activity.

Adding in to the mix a lack of sleep and the recommendation is pretty much eat and sleep more and a lot of your “tired” symptoms will clear up. Focus on pre-exercise nutrition to give you intensity in training, put good healthy foods in to your body post session to help recovery.

Granted if you are overtraining you will have tired symptoms but don’t confuse this with poor nutrition and recovery- generally we will always review nutritional needs in line with the desired goals as a primary component of keeping exercise effective.

Published by ianmellis

Ian Mellis MSc. CSCS is the co-founder of Results FAST ( in Ware, Hertfordshire. Specialising in athletic development, physique improvement and injury rehabilitation he provides personal training, strength and conditioning and nutrition coaching for motivated exercisers and those looking to make a long term change to their health, fitness and performance.

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