How to Avoid Overtraining

How to avoid overtraining

Before we even look at ways to avoid overtraining, we really need to understand what overtraining is and what signs to look for, so we know we are over trained.

So, what is overtraining?

Overtraining is where we basically exceed our body’s ability to recover from the stresses, we put on it, or it could be we are not allowing sufficient recover time or not providing the body with the correct nutrition and good sleep it requires to repair.

So how do we know we are overtrained?

There are many signs to look for to show you are in that overtrained state, and they fall into 4 categories,


  1. Drop off in performance, tasks that were previously comfortable are now feeling a lot harder.
  2. Constant soreness or heavy leg syndrome, where muscles are usually sore and take a long time to recover
  3. Inability to complete standard training programs. Your training program should be tailored to your ability and if so, you should not be failing to complete it.

Physiological changes.

  1. Weight loss/gain, these are sure signs of stress, dramatic loss in weight or a gain in fat, are both signs of excess stress.
  2. Increased resting heart rate, the body showing signs of stress through elevated heart rate.
  3. Constant minor infections, are a good sign that your body is under stress and struggling to cope with simple ailments

Mood changes.

  1. Depression, an inability to cope with simple day to day life, things that normally wouldn’t bother you are now affecting your mood
  2. Loss of appetite or comfort eating, both signs of stress, and can lead to fluctuations in bodyweight.
  3. Anxiety, finding things more stressful than normal.
  4. Loss of libido
  5. Loss of competitive drive
  6. Short tempered and irritable


  1. Difficulty getting off to sleep
  2. Trouble staying asleep
  3. Anxiety nightmares
  4. Waking unrefreshed.

Now you may feel a number of these symptoms or maybe only one or two, but it’s especially important to understand these, and see the signs before you get so rundown that coming back from it can be a long and frustrating process that can easily be avoided.

10 ways you can avoid overtraining.

  1. See the signs

This goes back to understanding and acknowledging the signs and symptoms of overtraining, and not just “working through it” which is the old way of thinking, yes the body is very good at adapting to the stresses put on it, but if you cross the line of stimulus and excess stress, then expect the body to shut down and not adapt.

  1. Allow recovery time.

The simplest way to help the body is to allow it to recover, you not being lazy just because you allow an extra day of recovery, your being smart. Know when to train hard and know when to back off. Make use of recovery methods, massages, hot/cold therapies, moderate cardio activity, active rest.



You wouldn’t try to drive your car 100 miles on £1 worth of fuel, so don’t expect your body to recover and perform on a scoop of preworkout and a bowl of coco pops. Proper nutrition is a commitment that should be taken as seriously as you do your training, you plan your workouts, so plan your nutrition to fuel the body to the best of its ability, don’t rely on supplements and the latest fad to get you through your workouts, and don’t think a bowl of cereal and a protein shake is going to provide you with all the nutrients your body needs to recover.

  1. Cycle your training efforts

You cannot go balls to the wall every single session you’re in the gym, you will not recover, stimulate the body, don’t annihilate the body. Look at any top level sport and you will see a progressive structured plan that peaks for a specific event, for example powerlifting, powerlifters don’t lift thier competition weights every week in the gym, they work are varying percentages of the weights they aim to lift in competition, this allows the body to adapt and deal with the stresses put on it, so when it comes to comp day the body is fully recovered and performing at 100%.

Also varying volume has the same effect, if you vary the amount of volume in your workouts you give the body more chance of recovery but not overloading the nervous system every-time you enter the gym, know when to back off, and know when to push.

  1. Change your training program.

This is not necessarily a way to avoid overtraining but it’s a great way to keep you motivated and avoid mental fatigue, by changing your training program after each cycle we can keep the stimulus fresh and keep the body moving forward through new adaptation and this in turn will keep you from becoming stale and unmotivated which is good for the mental state.

  1.  Get enough sleep

Nothing annoys me more than this ridiculous trend on social media that says if you not up at 5am everyday then you’re losing at life!!! So, you’re saying I must set an alarm for a ridiculous time, get up and get moving only to flag halfway through the day because I haven’t allowed my body the sleep it needs to recover and feel refreshed?? We are learning more and more how important good sleep is in recovery and quality of life, everybody requires different amounts of sleep in order to feel and perform at their best, there is no set time to sleep or wake up, if anything the best way is to go to bed at a reasonable hour, avoid all technology for at least an hour before that, make sure your bedroom is free of blue/flashing charging lights, and is dark and quiet, try to fall asleep naturaly and if possible get up when you wake up naturally, not when an alarm tells you too.

  1. Avoid stress

I know that’s probably the most ridiculous comment you’ve heard especially in todays society because we are surrounded by stress, we live in a stressful society, fact!, we have work life, home life, financial stress, health issues, social issues, social media, the news, the list is endless but we can take steps to limit the negative stress in our lives with a few simple steps, firstly avoid negative people, or at least ignore them, stop reading negative comments on social media, don’t get into Facebook arguments cause you will never win. Secondly, take time out, turn off your phone, stop scrolling through social media and read something positive that will help you mentally and physically and lastly just say no to negative energy and self-doubt.

  1. Avoid poor habits

The biggest downfall of any athlete is poor habits, and these come in many forms but all lead to the same result, decreased performance, be it, alcohol, smoking, drugs, late nights, poor nutrition, stressful lifestyle or any other negative activity, ultimately they all contribute to a drop off in performance, motivation and a will to succeed which in turn we only lead to many symptoms of overtraining when you try to combine training with poor habits.

  1. Take time off.

I see way too many athletes come straight off the back of a competition or peaking program and get straight back in the gym to train for the next challenge, but this practice never allows the body to be 100% recovered or perform at its best, take time off, do something else for a few days or a week, your body will thank you, I mean the ultimate goal is to be the best or better than before so why wouldn’t you give your body that chance?

The same applies at the end of a training program, if you’ve hit all time highs at the end of a program, or you’ve hit your targets, then reward the body with a bit of down time, there are stresses and tears in the body that you may never feel but are there, so let your body recover and come back stronger, it’s a marathon not a sprint, and if you still want to be training for years too come, then train smart.

  1. Use good technique.

Training with good form as we know is the best way to make progress and avoid injury but it also has its part to play when avoiding overtraining, because if your using correct lifting technique then you are not taxing the nervous system as much as throwing around excess weight in an attempt to train the ego instead of the body, keeping unnecessary stresses out of your routine means you can focus on training hard, staying injury free and ultimately enjoying your training, and when you look back at your training videos you wont have to make excuses for your poor form, and avoid the negative energy from the internet trolls.

Want to avoid overtraining and give your body the best chance to perform at its best?

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