Overtraining & Burnout – How To Recognise Symptoms

Ever wondered, how much exercise per day is too much? Or what the symptoms of too much exercise? Overtraining is possible in any sport and can happen to anyone…

Overtraining & Burnout - How To Recognise Symptoms

It’s Thursday when I’m writing this and so far I’ve done three lift classes (barbell weights), a 30 minute treadmill / HIIT class, cycled 50km and 90 minutes of the treadmill / HIIT thing in an audition… all since Tuesday.

Now this wasn’t my plan at all but it’s just how it worked out when I had to shuffle my schedule around to fit everything in to meet deadlines. But I realise from scrolling through Twitter and reading tweets like – “it’s only Thursday and I’ve already done 6 classes!!” – that people wear overtraining as a badge of honour.

I, on the other hand, am wandering around in a daze wondering a) where everyone seems to find the energy and b) what’s honourable about feeling tired. All. The. Time.

What is Overtraining?

It’s been a long time since I graduated from University studying Exercise Science and I am pretty sure that we would’ve covered overtraining in our studies.

But we all know the realities of many things can be substantially different to what a textbook tells us (take driving as an example). So I figured I would just discuss this with all my active friends and share my findings here.

But first, the overtraining definition. Overtraining, or overtraining syndrome as it is commonly known occurs when you perform more training than your body is able to recover from to the point where your performance is negatively affected.

It can happen in running, cycling, weight training… basically overtraining can happen in any sport.

What is overtraining?

Do It For Endurance

One thing that became glaringly obvious from the responses I got is that doing double workouts is a necessity when it comes to sports like triathlon.

A triathlon itself involves the combination of swimming, cycling and running so of course it makes sense to practice those on the same day, if not in back to back sessions.

For the ultra runners too; they pointed out that it was important to train on tired legs as it mimics the setting of their long distance events. The sensible approach is to build up your training load, ensure you fuel efficiently and listen to your body.

Variety Is The Spice Of Training

Those who shared that they enjoyed multiple classes in a day suggested that it was best to mix up what you were doing. So maybe some high intensity training in one session then something more holistic or chilled out like yoga or Pilates. Even training different body parts…

The Difference Sleep Makes

Sleep is a topic I’ve covered numerous times on the blog and it literally is my favourite thing to do in the world! But realistically, recovery and sleep are vital in order to reap the benefits of all the training that you’re doing.

At the start of 2017 I regularly attended run club on Wednesday evenings but some months later when I started teaching early on Thursday mornings I had to quit run club.

Running in the evening gave me a high that meant I couldn’t relax and wind down soon enough to go to bed at a decent time in order to wake up at 5am. So I’d end up with a crap nights sleep and feeling even more crap for the whole of Thursday.

And it seems this is normal; I’m certainly not alone. Not so restful sleep was a symptom shared with me of overtraining and it’s worth noting that when you are increasing your training load it’s probably wise to increase the amount of sleep you get too…

The Difference Sleep Makes

Recognising The Symptoms of Overtraining

Since coming back from Paris (and finishing this post) I’ve begun to experience first hand what the symptoms of overtraining are. And considering the fact I’d been writing this post, it didn’t even occur to me that it was happening to me.

In my head, overtraining was a choice. You choose to do a million classes so therefore you become tired. I certainly didn’t choose this and have I even been training that much to constitute overtraining syndrome?!

My personal symptoms have included a loss of appetite (no longer attributed to my l-glutamine supplementation as I stopped taking it), waking up feeling like I’ve not slept (after a solid 8+ hours), feeling an insane level of tiredness all day, and needing to nap more than usual.

And these are all symptoms that people shared with me having experienced overtraining themselves. There are plenty more symptoms and we all know that we’re all different so everyone will react in different ways…

  • decline in your performance or you hit a plateau
  • mood all over the place
  • susceptible to colds and other viruses
  • unusual levels of DOMS (delayed onset of muscle soreness)
  • old injuries flaring up
  • loss of period in females

Double HIIT & Sh*t (lol)

As an Instructor myself, I always think that if you work hard enough in my session (usually 45 minutes) then you really wouldn’t need another.

I also think that if you book two classes back to back, you consciously or unconsciously hold back in the first class knowing that you need to save some energy for the next class.

So why not just put in 100% and be done with it?! …I’m not about that double HIIT life!

Missed Session Guilt

This is a thing for some people. Its been a while since I’ve missed a planned session but thats mostly because I’ve been busy training other people. The only thing I committed to over the past 8 weeks were my weekend long rides and I’m proud to say I made every single one as planned.

But so what if you miss a session? …what good does it do beating yourself up about it?! …you don’t need to make up for it by cramming in your sweat sessions in the time you have left.

Just be mindful of what caused you to miss the session… if you chose to hang out with friends instead maybe you need to make sure you schedule in some social activities each week. If you weren’t feeling too great, maybe you needed the rest?!

Anyway, thanks for the chat; I think I’ve gotten everything out that I was thinking… I didn’t make this into a post based on SEO so it’s not “5 tips to recover from overtraining” but I do hope it’s made you a little more aware that this does exist and allows you to potentially recognise the signs. I’m also curious to hear your thoughts on “doing a double” and overtraining…

Have you ever suffered from symptoms of overtraining?! Do you struggle to find balance?!




  1. Liz Wilson
    July 26, 2017 / 18:43

    I LOVE that people are talking about overtraining right now and how unhealthy it is. All about the rest hard to go hard! It's so difficult for me, but so important.

    • Elle Linton
      August 20, 2017 / 20:32

      Could not agree more! …love me a chilled out day.. I try to have one day a week where I don't leave the house at all! hahaha!

  2. Amanda - Runtothefinish
    July 24, 2017 / 20:36

    As someone whose life revolves around being active, it's really easy for me to overdo it. I want to do all the events and it's how we connect with friends, so I definitely have to watch how I'm feeling and my bigger goals to pick and choose.

    • Elle Linton
      August 20, 2017 / 20:31

      I know… I totally get this! I've been practicing saying no a lot recently for this reason and for financial reasons! I look back at my race schedules from previous years and wonder how i ever found the energy!

  3. Katrina Pilkington
    July 24, 2017 / 17:44

    Recovery is just as important as training, overworking that body makes it tucker out no doubt!

    • Elle Linton
      August 20, 2017 / 20:30

      Think we're just all in a mindset of more is better! …defo agree that recovery is important! 😉

  4. Erica @ Erica Finds
    July 24, 2017 / 12:29

    I am a distance runner and have been suffering from over training pretty much all year. I am not able to keep my normal paces in training or races. I always feel exhausted even when I sleep a full night and I crave sugar. I've "cut back" but not enough. I'm signed up a few marathons at the end of the year and know I need to take a 1 or 2 month break from running all together. It's so hard because it is a big part of my life and social life. I've been "ok" with going a bit slower but it's frustrating and not good for me to feel so run down. This happened about 5 years ago and an injury forced a 2 month lay off and I felt like a new person when I returned… Thanks for sharing your experience!

    • Elle Linton
      August 20, 2017 / 20:28

      Thanks for sharing your experience too Erica! …think we're all pretty hard on ourselves and need to learn how great balance is, and how very important too! Hope you get the rest you need and get back in tip top shape asap x

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