The Seven Signs of Overtraining Runners Should be Aware of

by Jim Richardson | Last Updated: April 28, 2020

Exercise is a wonderful thing. It’s great for your health and well-being, both physically and mentally. However, it’s always possible to have too much of a good thing. That’s what happens when someone overtrains.

Photo by Emma Simpson on Unsplash


Overtraining occurs when a particular workout (or exercise in general) is performed way too much. In such instances, the body cannot adequately recover, meaning the excess exercise does more harm than good. Here are the seven major signs you might be overtraining.

1. Extended soreness.

It’s perfectly normal for your muscles to hurt some after a workout, particularly if you pushed yourself hard. However, soreness should normally resolve within a day or two. If it doesn’t, your body has not properly recovered from the strain it underwent. Soreness that regularly lasts for over 72 hours is a strong indicator of overtraining. Aches and nagging pains that seem to never go away are also a warning sign.

2. Worsening performance.

Although it might seem paradoxical, working out too much can easily result in lowered athletic performance. The body (especially the muscles) requires plenty of rest to recover from exertion; if you push yourself too hard too often, you won’t be at your best physically. If you are repeatedly failing to complete normal, ordinary workouts, you may have overtrained. Watch for any other drop-offs in performance as well.

3. You’re getting sick more often.

Overtraining puts a massive strain on the body. This can weaken the immune system, putting you at greater risk for illness. However, an increased occurrence of sickness should never be taken as clear proof of overtraining. The immune system can become compromised due to many different factors, including bad diet, anxiety, and poor-quality sleep.

4. A constantly elevated heart rate.

A raised resting heart rate could indicate that your body is stuck in recovery mode. When the body is recuperating from a workout, it must send oxygen to the tissue to facilitate healing. If you have been exercising too hard, your heart may have to pump at an elevated rate simply to get enough oxygen to damaged tissue.

5. Exercise make you feel terrible.

After a workout, you should feel pretty good. While you’re likely to feel somewhat tired physically, you should not be utterly drained and exhausted. If instead you feel dead on your feet and unhappy with your performance, you may be overtraining. In fact, chronic physical fatigue is one of the biggest signs for overtraining. Exercise should be a positive experience, so be concerned if your motivation drops and you start to dread workouts.

6. Insomnia.

Overtraining can put great stress on the nervous system, in turn making it harder to reach the state of relaxation needed for quality sleep. Problems associated with excessive weight training, such as difficulty focusing and feelings of restlessness or overexcitement, are particularly likely to disrupt sleep. However, since there many different potential causes of insomnia, trouble sleeping can never be definite proof of overtraining.

7. More injuries.

An increase in injuries is one of the biggest signs of overtraining, especially if the same injuries are recurring. When you are overtraining, you aren’t allowing your body time to truly recover from each punishing workout. As a result, the body remains in a weakened, injury-prone state. Minor, nagging injuries may never get a chance to fully heal, and the risk for more significant injuries is increased.

Overtraining is something every fitness enthusiast should be concerned about. Besides diminished performance and the threat of injury, overtraining can completely sap your willpower and motivation. If exercise becomes a miserable experience, sticking with your workout regimen can become almost impossible.

Luckily, it usually isn’t that hard to solve an overtraining problem. The thing to do is simply to cut back on exercise, since overtraining represents an imbalance between exercise and rest. In fact, taking a whole week or more off may be wise. Giving the body time to truly recover is important. A change in mindset is probably necessary too; just remember that with exercise, less can be more. If you simply listen to your body and take any signs of overtraining seriously, you should ultimately be fine.