T Nation

How can you measure overtraining?

Hello all!

Is there a good measure of measuring overtraining? Like pulse or something? I need something concrete and not emphereal like a “feeling”.

please reply!


Low T and high Cortisol levels. Both are measureable.

Yeah, if your lifts don’t improve, you’re overtraining. Ta’da!

I agree w/ Ike but also I would include: pyschological symptoms also such as “not feel like working out”, wondering around the gym etc.

Well, it is a “feeling”, like: feeling sluggish, worn out. Also, increased irritability, insomnia.

If normally you are motivated to train and you find yourself not wanting to train, skipping sessions, having unproductive workouts, etc, then you are overtrained.

Increased incidence of coming down with colds, etc. (= immune system not up to par), increased sensitivity to sunlight, a higher than normal resting pulse rate, and so on and so forth.

There was an interview in T-Mag a while back that had a bunch of symptoms listed. Can’t remember the name of the guy they interviewed, but it was at least two years ago. If you do a search for “sunlight” within T-mag it should come up. Alternatively, TEK, the Human Library, might know what I’m talking about and give you the specific link…

Measure your heart rate when you wake up every morning. If it is 10% higher than average on 3 or more consecutive mornings this MAY indicate overtraining. Not real reliable because dreams and stuff but it is a relatively easy test to do that some coaches have recomended.

Symptoms that you are over training or not recovering optimally include:

Excessive soreness and fatigue
-increased blood pressure
-changes in body temperature
-decreased performance in the gym
-slower reaction time
-loss of appetite
-failure to execute highly skilled movements
-decreased training willingness
-decreased sleep quality
-loss of appetite
-bodyweight fluctuations
-sleep insomnia
-decreased work capacity and performance
-excessive sweating
-muscle cramping
-increased Heart Rate
-altered Endocrine Profiles on muscle metabolism
-increased catecholamine Output
-psychological profile changes
-cardiovascular Manifestations (hematological alterations, iron status, protein status, and fluid and electrolyte balance)
-plasma concentration reduction of pituitary hormones
-changes in pituitary/hormonal secretion patterns
-changes in serum amino acid concentrations and its effects on serotonin synthesis
-musculoskeletal/orthopedic problems (cellular aspects of overtraining with emphasis on muscle, bone, and connective tissues)
-immune suppression and accompanying illness rates (natural killer cell activity, neutrophil function, lymphocyte proliferate response, and other measures of immunity)
-appetite suppression.
- there are probably others too

Derek H is correct but those are often impractical to measure.

Have to disagree with Patricia and Ike. While not improving will be one indicator there are many reasons why someone may not be making progress in the gym. Diet, injury, reaching or getting close to your genetic potential, not using any variety in a training program, not attempting to progress optimally as well as increasing stressors outside training (this will cause relative overtraining i guess) will all lead to stagnation in your lifts. You also can not necasserily feel it although obviously Pat and many others can...

The symptoms attributed to overtraining usually result from undereating and/or undersleeping. I don’t believe in the existence of overtraining, myself.

Insomnia. But also you do have to take ito account “feeling,” for this is what overtraining mainly affects. For example: dreading workouts, strength loss, loss of appetite. If you feel your overtraining, you probably are.

How do you measure overtraining in people who work out WAY TOO MUCH (without improvement) but feel great? You know the term “runner’s high”… I now a woman who does–without supplementation or midworkout carbs–an hour and a half in the weightroom three times a week and more than 3 hours per week of moderate to intense cardio. She came off a period of long-term dieting where she was losing more than 2 pounds per week at normal BF levels (until her metabolism dropped). She probably works out so much because she needs the seratonin fix and because she is scared to death she’s going to regain weight, much of which she already has. I wish I could point her to concrete measures that support the bodybuilding adage to keep workouts under an hour. Cortisol often starts to rise after the workout, and although leukocytes start congregating at the beginning of the workout, they don’t peak until 2 hours later.

You don’t believe it because you have never been through it, if you had, you would know that you can’t even sleep when you’re overtrained. Let’s hope you never have to know.

Real overtraining sindrome is something so serious that it can take years to recover from. In some cases you never do.

I would have to say that most people can feel when they are overtraining IF they look for the signs.
Many seem to subscribe to the “more is better” approach though it impedes progress all too often.
Learn to “listen to your body”. It is one of the essential keys to success in fitness training.