LISTEN TO THE WARNING SIGNS OF OVERTRAINING!
Understand the early warning signs of overtraining/overreaching (too much anaerobic exercise, too much total stress, or both), and slow down before you are forced down from injury and/or illness.
- Morning resting HR greater than 10% of normal – you may be getting sick; you’re overreaching in your training. Heart rate info here.
- Dizzy or lightheaded upon standing up – you’re blood pressure is dropping because your endocrine system is fatigued
- Cravings for sugar and/or salt – your body is running off sugar more than fat and you’re losing too much salt from all the stress
- Persistent sore throat – low antioxidant level from too much free radical damage from training too hard
- General aches and pain, relieved by exercising – you’re getting a cortisol rush, that’s not good over time
- Eyes sensitive to light – those pupils are constricting rather than dilating because your nervous system is all jacked-up
- Irritability – you’re a pain in the ass because your blood sugar is a mess
- Lack of desire to exercise – you’re burning out from all the training
- Insomnia, or waking up in the middle of the night – you’re getting a cortisol surge in the middle of the night when those levels should be very low
- Frequent night time urination (>1 time) – your hormones are under so much stress they’re not able to rest during the time they should be
- Limb twitching or jumping while falling asleep – like the sensitive eyes, your nervous system is all jacked-up
- PMS: cramping, back pain, over-emotional, breast tenderness, fatigue – I’m not going there (haha!) – More on PMS at my other site – click here.
- Eye lid spasms – “functional blepharospasm” – from mineral imbalances in your body, depleted from excess training
- Burning and/or blood shot eyes – from vitamin deficiencies, primarily B2 (riboflavin) from overtraining
- Ankles “easily turn” – those muscles and ligaments of your ankle are very susceptible to stress; next is foot, heel, or knee pain
Rest Up, Recover, and Back to Aerobic!
Click here for Sock Doc info on training aerobically.
Heard your interview on the Trail Runner Nation podcast http://trailrunnernation.com/2012/07/sock-doc-part-3-strength-training-rest-recovery/ (41 min in) where you mention:
“[people with low cortisol] when they exercise they feel really good, later that day or on an ‘off day’ they feel terrible, they are getting extra cortisol from exercise”
Also see you mention something similar in the article above “General aches and pain, relieved by exercising – you’re getting a cortisol rush, that’s not good over time”
A few questions come to mind:
– If you have aches and pains from a run the day before, and another run either 1 or 2 days later relieves these how do you know if it is a “cortisol rush” (a bad thing?) or just due to e.g. increased blood flow / active recovery (a good thing)?
Or is it that active recovery releases a little cortisol which is the reason it works (i.e. it is not increased blood flow to muscles, it is elevated cortisol that then decreases inflammation)?
– When you say it is “not good over time” are you referring to “adrenal fatigue” possibly occurring?
(Thanks for the articles, and interviews on the podcasts I have found them very informative).
Sock Doc says
Hi Nick, Regarding your first question there’s really no way to be 100% certain. You’d have to look at other factors/patters and how you feel overall. For example, if you just did a hard run and you’re sore the next day or a couple days later but everything else is good, and a recovery run helps with relief, then I’d say you’re dealing more with active recovery rather than a cortisol increase (not “rush”).
I’m not sure how much of active recovery is beneficial because of actual increased blood flow to muscles. Pumping of the muscles will increase lymph flow – helping to remove waste products and heal tissue, so that’s a big part of active recovery.
Cortisol, like most hormones, is tough to narrow down to a “this equals this” answer. The reason is because it’s not just about how much hormone you make, but also how your body responds to it as well as how your body detoxifies it. When the body is overwhelmed with a hormone too often then the receptors that uptake the hormone become resistant to the hormone (common in Type II diabetes, for example). So you could be pumping out a lot of cortisol but not feeling the “cortisol rush” if your body is just so used to it. And yes, if this goes on and on then you will fatigue the adrenal glands.
Speaking of podcasts – tomorrow night, Aug 27, we are taping TRN Podcast #4 where we will discuss cortisol with athletes. So this should help answer your questions more (I hope!).
I get eyelid twitches whenever I ratchet up the intensity for a while. You mention a mineral imalance- is there some kind of nutrient or supplement that I should be adding to my diet? I know the easy answer is just to rest, but if you’re training for a specific race, and everything else seems to be going well, is it possible to work your way through something like this and rest afterwards?
Sock Doc says
There’s your direct link between your nervous system and your body unable to handle the excess stress via training. Typically this is from a depletion of certain B vitamins and/or minerals – most often potassium, phosphorus, or magnesium. Of course I can’t tell you (or know) what one may benefit you. Can you train through it? Sure but it’s your warning sign that your body is not properly adapting via your training. In other words, you’re on bought time.
Thanks. This article was very helpful. Question: i am wondering if i am suffering from overtraining. I am having slight dizziness lightheadedness throughout the day (4 weeks now, started 1st week of Sep) and I wonder if the dizziness described here is during training or just throughout the day (even when not training). I dont have any muscle/joint soreness but i am logging about 8-10 hrs a week 50% cadio 50% weightlifting spread in 6 days (morning). I ve been doing this routine for about 10 months now and this was the first time i’ve experienced the dizziness. I had muscle soreness during the first couple of weeks but once my body got adjusted i felt pretty ok. Since i had the dizziness, i cut back the training days to 4 days approx 6 hours. What was weird is that during the rest days, i have more random slight dizziness episodes. Was the the low cortisol described above?
I went to the doctor and after doing some physical examination and having my A1C results as normal they told me i was fine probably just have anxiety. Appreciate any feedback/advise on what to do next. Thanks in advance.
Sock Doc says
The dizziness associated with overtraining is due to drop in blood pressure during postural changes at any time during the day. So if you get out of bed “too quick”, or if you bend down to tie your shoes and get dizzy when you come back up, or if you get up from a chair too quick and get dizzy – that’s your BP dropping from adrenal stress.
Really not a direct association to HGA1C.
If you’re getting dizzy randomly (w/o movement) or spinning-type of dizziness then you should see your doctor.
Thanks Doctor. That’s probably the reason why i dont feel it when i am in my chair/driving or laying in bed. I probalbly just have not associated that most if not all of my “random” dizziness was were due to postural changes. I definitely feel it when i bend down tie my shoe and come back up. Plus I experience a lot of other symptoms such as slight irritability, limb twitching frequent urination and carvings for something sweet and or salty.
One more question- Do you suggest taking a complete week off or just gradual/light exercise 3-4 times a week?
Sock Doc says
Sounds like you’re overtrained 🙂
Recovery depends on how deep into the problem you are. Typically light exercise is fine – but that may just mean walking for a while until you’re feeling good again.
Jason M says
Hello Soc Doc,
I have really enjoyed your podcasts on Trail Runner Nation. I fit at least 9 of the bullet points above. I just finished a half on Feb 24th and I am totally wiped out and have a shin splint. I may be willing to accept that if my time was better not 45 seconds worse per mile.
What I would like to know is can I schedule a consultation with your office remotely? I would be happy to share my training plan and results I have them all logged with the Garmin GPS.
Sock Doc says
Yes – info re phone consults here: https://sock-doc.com/consult-with-sockdoc/
Wait-time is around 5-6 weeks.
Eric M says
After stumbling upon your website through Ryan Hall’s tweet, I was hooked and read all of the materials on your website. This article stuck out to me because I was experiencing many of the symptoms of overtraining. Namely, dizziness when standing up, sore throat, and eye lid spasms. At that point, I had been running 6-7 days a week for over a year at an average heart rate of 150-160 depending on the day. I immediately started backing off the pace. For the past month I have been running every day, very conscious to never let my heart rate get over 140. I have seen improvements in my average mile pace at that heart rate, but I am still experiencing the overtraining symptoms. Am I still running too hard? I feel great while running.
Miles per week: 40-50
Average pace before adjustment: 7:00
Average pace after adjustment: 8:15
Any feedback or advice is greatly appreciated.
Sock Doc says
Probably not training too hard but may be other factors inhibiting or delaying recovery.
Anyone out there use i-thlete? Just recently purchased in an effort to get on top of the constant niggles/possibility of overtraining.
Sock Doc says
I have one. I like it other than the fact that you have to strap on the HR monitor and sit still ideally same time every day. It’d be easier if you could just use a finger sensor and get a faster reading.
This ~ related to iThlete, Apps & wearable Tech in general.
Sensoria team is aiding the tracking of “…the athlete’s foot landing, foot contact time, cadence, calories burned, distance, pace, ascent, decent, altitude, speed, and number of steps taken.” http://blog.sensoriafitness.com/blog/detecting-athletes-strength-and-weaknesses-with-sensoria
I think they & PreCor, Nike, Apple, et al should leave Calorie counting out *unless* the respective Development Teams develop interesting algorithms based on the factors mentioned above; otherwise, these Apps are random number generators most-likely encouraging over-stuffing & a mindset of “I earned these extra fries”.
Holland Shield says
I’m 49. I’ve been doing interval sprinting three days a week. I generally get my heart rate up to 165 on most days, but last time it went to 170. My max heart rate is 173. I had a dizzy spell about two days after. I was sitting on couch and jumped up, spun around and had to drop to one knee. My eyes have trouble in the morning hours outside. I can’t see my neighbors face across the street, or see detail in signs. I checked my vision on an eye chart, and was 20/20. Outside my vision was off for a bit. It got better in the late afternoon. I guess I’ll rest until my heart rate comes back down into the 50’s again. Does this sound like over training? Would hit training just three days a week do this?
Sock Doc says
Too much HIIT can cause overtraining especially if there are other lifestyle and dietary factors taken into consideration.
Joel Pelley says
Looks like I’m living in this zone. Time to go back and build my aerobic base. My question is a bit more about the how? Do you walk/jog/run in your zone for how long how many days/wk? And do you still do some strength training (like bodyweight) to maintain fitness?
Iti srivastava says
hi, I competed in bodybuilding completion Npc, my first week of bulking decembe 2015, my Insomnia slowly started. I competed may 2016. my insomnia only got worse to stay. I was put on xanax and ambience.. and they do help on non-lifting days. I am so bad now that if I do anything strenuous I don’t sleep on top of all pills. I have persistent sore throat. my doctor is at loss, she is sending me for sleep study. but I am hopeless. I have taken full rest for last 2 weeks, still insomnia is persistent. what’s your opinion?
Dr. Stephen Gangemi "Sock Doc" says
I’d really need to set up a consult for something like this; sounds a bit complicated.
Thank you for sharing such awesome article.
Overtraining always causes a lot of problems. You have to train your body according to the requirements and calories consumption of your body.
Earlier some years I love to play football and now I don’t have enough time to play football. So, I’m trying to maintain my body by doing some workouts.
I always train my body withing fixed constraints. It helps me keep my body normal.
Hi Dr. Gangemi,
I know this article is over 6 years old but it really hit home for me. Even after 19 years since the onset with ovetraining it never really disappeared for good. If you should read this, I wonder if their is an underlying problem that could cause people like me to be unable to do more than just hiking/walking. Any strenuous type of exercise over a period of 2-3 weeks will bring all the overtraining symptoms right back. And man, do they feel seriously bad.
Reayah Van Horne says
Hi I don’t know if I’m too late to comment on here but I’ve been having some problems that I believe are related to the topic here and I just hope to get some advice. I work at ups as a package handler. I handle small packages and big packages, sometimes almost as tall as me (I’m a 5’2 woman, 135 lbs., 21 yrs old). For about 2 months I had started working my normal shift which was about 4 hours and working the shift after which was usually 3 hours. I would get about an hour to 30 minutes of break between shifts. The work isn’t unbearable but it can be pretty physically demanding. I would work these extra shifts 2 days a week and then I would also do jiu jitsu after work for about an hour. Most of my days I was busy doing physical activity in one way or another for most of my day. I was going to sleep late and waking up still tired most of the time. I would have 2 days of rest but even then I would sometimes wake up early for a doctor’s appointment or another jiu jitsu session. For the past couple weeks I’ve been having a hard time falling asleep. Whenever I start to fall asleep, I experience very hard muscle jerks that either shake my whole body or cause my arm to fly up in the air or to the side. During the day I’ve started to have muscle twitching (like involuntary movements) all over my body though they are not hard like the jerks I experience when trying to sleep. On the weekend when I dont work, I’ve noticed that I don’t have this problem. I’ve cut down on the double shifting but I still work my usual shift and do jiu jitsu. Do you think that overtraining is my situation and what would your advice be from here. I’m taking a sleep medication, muscle relaxer, and other herbal supplements (magnesium being one of them) btw.
Dr. Stephen Gangemi "Sock Doc" says
Hi Reayah – yeah those are common signs of pushing yourself too much (ie overtraining). Also sometimes the supplements or medications you’re taking can interfere with proper sleep patterns. Here’s some more info on sleep from my other site; hope it helps: https://www.drgangemi.com/health-symptoms/sleep-issues/