Overtraining Warning Signs And Risk Factors November 24 2015

Overtraining is a problem for many athletes (10 to 20 percent of those who train intensively) and appears to be relatively common in endurance athletes. Some well established warning signs include:

  • increased muscle soreness;
  • delay of muscular recovery;
  • inability to perform at the previous training load;
  • poor-quality of sleep;
  • decreased vigor;
  • swelling of lymph nodes;
  • high illness frequency; and
  • loss of appetite.


Among other factors that may increase the risk of developing this condition, a poor intake of carbohydrates and fluids is known to be a problem.1 Overtaining syndrome is an untreated excessive training overload with inadequate rest, resulting in chronic decreases in performance and in the ability to train. Other problems may result and may require medical attention.


Factors associated with the development of overtraining syndrome include:

  • frequent competition, particularly if it involves quality efforts;
  • monotonous training with insufficient rest;
  • preexisting medical conditions (e.g. colds or allergies);
  • insufficient salt uptake/excess loss of salts (e.g., sweating);
  • poor diet, particularly inadequate intake of carbohydrates, or dehydration;
  • environmental stress (e.g., altitude, high temperatures, and humidity); and
  • psychosocial stressors (e.g., work, school, or home conflicts).


According to the American College of Sports Medicine, overtraining syndrome can be effectively eliminated through a logical training program that allows for adequate rest and recovery with proper nutrition and hydration.2 Studies of marathon runners suggest that even athletes who consume a high-carbohydrate diet require seven days after a marathon to return to muscle glycogen to prerace levels.3


A continuation of regular training before full muscle glycogen resynthesis will inevitably lead to performance degradation. Athletes must therefore understand that rest is a useful and necessary part of training, particularly after a hard and intensive training session.


Athletes fearing that a reduction in training may diminish competitiveness may resist getting enough rest. Therefore, everyone in the athlete's training circle (family, coach, athletic trainer, and so on) should support the concept that overtraining is associated with reduced performance.


Put simply, rest and recovery should be an integral part of the training plan.




1 American College of Sports Medicine. 1999. Overtraining: Consensus statement. Sports Medicine Bulletin 31 (1): 29.

2 American College of Sports Medicine. 1999. Overtraining: Consensus statement. Sports Medicine Bulletin 31 (1): 29.

3 Asp, S., Rohde, T., and Richter, E.A. 1997. Impaired muscle glyocen resynthesis after a marathon is not casused by decreased muscle GLUT-4 content. F. Appl. Physiol. 83 (5): 1482-1485