Advice on Over-​​Training

Intense pushups

For years, I have written about and discussed the fine line between training for Special Ops programs and over-​​training. Until recently, I realized I forgot one very important piece of information:

Tell others around you the symptoms of over-training.

You should do this because you will typically not notice them until it is too late. Even though over-​​training is actually hard to do just by training, it is easy to see symptoms pop up occasionally when your recovery balance is off: Not enough sleep, not eating or hydrating well, and too many crazy workouts in a week are just the things to push any training program into the over-​​reaching and over-​​training zone.

Tell your family and friends, whoever you're often near to, that you are working out as normal, but if you exhibit the following signs to let you know.

  1. Personality Changes – Grumpy, Irritable, Moody, Depressed, etc.
  2. Getting Sick or Injured More Often than Normal – Decrease Immune Function
  3. Lack of Motivation
  4. Loss of Muscle Mass
  5. Loss of Sexual Drive
  6. Muscle or​ Joint Soreness – Longer than 24 hour post workout soreness. This is 48–72+ hour soreness.

There are many more symptoms, and the signs to slow down before you are actually over-​​training do appear from time to time. This does not mean that you need to take a week off and go on vacation.  But, it does mean you should take a day off, go for an easy walk after a healthful dinner, stretch, and get a good night's sleep. Usually, this is all you need to get back on track. In some cases, you may need more easy days, especially if you are getting sick or​ injured often.

Personally, I know I am over-​​training when my hips tighten up and I can't do a deep squat as in the Functional Movement Screening (FMS) without pain, discomfort, and lack of balance. This typically happens during higher mileage in run and​ ruck season. So, I know to take a 1–2 day break from intense workouts, stretch more, eat better, sleep more, and hydrate.

Now, individually these symptoms do not mean you are over-​​training, but if you have several of these symptoms for several days or weeks in a row, you might be over-training. Often, having someone who cares about you know that some of these symptoms indicate that you need to take a break will also make it easier for them to handle them, especially if you are being grumpy with your spouse or other loved ones.

And yes, my wife gave me the idea for the article.

Stew Smith works as a presenter / editorial board with the Tactical Strength and Conditioning program of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). There are also over 800 articles on Fitness Forum focusing on a variety of fitness, nutritional, and tactical issues military members face throughout their career.

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