The old adage that too much of a good thing is bad for you applies to exercise, as Over Training Syndrome can adversely affect your fitness level.

People who love to exercise – and those who are addicted to exercise – can fall prey to Over Training Syndrome (OTS), and chances are that those of us who workout regularly have over-trained.  As a strength coach/personal trainer, and as someone who has pushed myself in the gym, I constantly adjust my workouts and the workouts of my clients to avoid OTS and the problems that it causes.

Simply stated, OTS occurs when you consistently don’t allow yourself enough time to recover in between bouts of exercise.  OTS can occur Sometimes people feel so great about exercising and train so hard during individual workouts that the typical rest period between workouts isn’t sufficient to allow for recovery, and over time the effects of over training are felt, and performance decreases.

There’s no one indicator of over training; OTS is marked by a collection of physical, behavioral and emotional behaviors that are brought about from months or even weeks of doing too much.  Athletes and weekend warriors alike can suffer from diminished performance, a compromised immune system, constant muscle soreness or muscle soreness after “easy” workouts, an increased resting pulse rate and increased rate of injuries.  Sometimes people also have a hard time sleeping.

All of this from exercising too much.  And it doesn’t matter if you are a professional athlete, a personal trainer or a weekend warrior, doing too much will result in OTS.  Fatigue sets in earlier in workouts as glucose tolerance is affected that results in symptoms of hypoglycemia and athletes will find that they can’t maintain their usual workload at a given heart rate.

Over the years, I have had several clients who loved to distance run, and every year the onset of the great weather that comes with spring spurs these runners to run longer or more frequently than they are accustomed to.  Being so happy that the weather has finally gotten nice, these runners over train.  What follows is injury, illness and diminished performance.

OTS can also affect people who overdo it in the weight room.  Training 4 or 5 days per week, every week can trigger OTS and result in the same problems as experienced by distance runners.

Steroids and human growth hormone are popular because they help to body recover faster from the rigors of training and competition.  Users of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) are relatively immune to the affects of OTS, which is why they are so popular among professional athletes.

There are several ways that you can check to see if you are over training and as a strength coach/personal trainer I utilize a couple of methods. With my own training from a performance standpoint, I test my vertical jump or broad jump to see if I’m overdoing things, even if I don’t feel any symptoms. 

There are times when I feel great but am 1-3 inches off in these different jumps, which IMHO is the single best indicator of a person being over trained.  Using the jump measurements is the early indicator of OTS and will definitely help to prevent the condition from getting worse.

However, I’m human just like everyone else and for a variety of reasons there are times when I overdo.  If I haven’t tested my jump I know I’m “over trained” by my level of soreness and/or an overall heavy-limbed feeling.

The best treatment for OTS is rest, and how much rest you need depends upon how over trained you are. 

If you’re in touch with your energy levels and are aware of the fact that you might be doing too much, taking a few extra days off in between sessions for a couple of weeks can do the trick.  However, for those folks who refuse to recognize that everyone has limits and get themselves deep into the throes of OTS, more rest is required to overcome the problem.

Remember that you need to balance exercise and recovery, as rest plays just as important of a role in getting into and being in shape as does exercise.  Taking time off is a good thing and will improve your fitness level. Taking time off from exercise because of illness or injury is not recovery from exercise, but healing.

Enjoy exercise, but enjoy your rest as well.  You can’t be fit, healthy and in shape unless you allow yourself time for rest and recovery.


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