9 Weird Signs You're Overtraining

by Sportitude
11 May 2018

Do you dread hitting the gym or pavement (when you used to love it)?

Whether you’ve hit the proverbial wall or have lost motivation for your sweat sessions, you could be overtraining to the detriment of your physical health and mental wellbeing.

Your body may have a weird (or not so weird) way of telling you it’s burnt out from excessive physical stress – consider the following signs.

You’re Tired But Can’t Sleep

If you’re exhausted, you’re going to sleep well, right? Think again - tiring yourself out to the point of exhaustion by performing strenuous activity may have the opposite effect, leaving you overstimulated and consequently sleep deprived.

Chronic stress from elevated cortisol (the 'stress' hormone) and epinephrine (adrenaline) levels can leave you wound up, interfering with your ability to gain quality shut-eye and inhibiting your recovery.

If you’re feeling fatigued, restless and desperately counting sheep to initiate a snooze session, consider trading in your high intensity sweat sessions for moderate intensity exercises and rest up to break the overtraining cycle.

You’re Getting Beat Up By The Sniffles

During endurance training (over 1.5 hours) and high intensity activity, your body reallocates its energy to prioritise the physical movement, and your immune system function temporarily weakens.

With your body under stress, cortisol and norepinephrine levels increase, impairing your immune system and resulting in a decline of your disease-fighting white blood cells (leukocytes) during and post-exercise. This provides a window of opportunity (up to 72 hours post-workout) for viruses and other nasties to invade, leaving you susceptible to upper respiratory tract infections like the common cold and other illness.

There’s A Cranky Monkey On Your Shoulder

Rather than reaching for a choccy bar for that happiness hit of endorphins you’ve chosen the body-loving option of exercising.

However, if working out is leaving you with a cranky monkey on your shoulder instead of washing you up in these ‘feel good’ hormones, you could be overtraining, chronic under fuelling or neglecting to properly recover.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of anger, agitation, depression, mood swings or poor concentration, you may have a hormone imbalance from excessive cortisol and epinephrine, so put your feet up and treat yourself to a guilt-free rest day.

You’re Gaining Weight

If you’re waging war on wobbly bits for better health, hitting the gym at full pelt 3 hours a day, 6 days a week may not be the answer.

Overtraining can mess up your hormones, and particularly, cortisol (the ‘stress’ hormone) can go into overdrive. It’s a slippery slope - elevated cortisol levels lead to raised insulin levels, which in turn hinders fat metabolism and promotes fat storage around your waist/belly. It’s a muffin top nightmare.

Overtraining and under fuelling can trick your body into thinking it’s starving – so it’ll go into ‘survival mode’ and hold onto every morsel – but unless you’re a cuddly grizzly bear preparing to nap through the winter, that’s probably not your goal.

You’re Always Thirsty

Stress and dehydration have a quirky relationship – one brings about the other in a nasty cycle.

Chronic stress may result in your adrenal glands (responsible for producing cortisol and other hormones) to become fatigued and overburdened, causing low blood pressure and increasing your body’s demand for water.

In their burnt-out state your adrenal glands are inefficient at releasing aldosterone, the hormone responsible for regulating electrolyte and fluid levels.

On the flip side, dehydration from overtraining causes physical stress to your body as fluid is lost in sweat, depriving your muscles and organs of the water they need to function effectively. Overtraining can put your body in a catabolic state (breaking down muscle tissue for fuel instead of fat or carbs) – a naturally dehydrating condition.

Your Heart Is Pumping Like Crazy Even At Rest

You’re all snuggled up for a movie marathon but your heart is racing. An accelerated heart rate during rest (about 7 -15 bpm more than your normal average) could indicate you’re overdoing it at the gym and not recovering properly. It may be accompanied by elevated blood pressure.

Heart rate monitors make it easy to keep track of your heart over a period of time. Ideally, check your resting heart rate first thing when you wake up in the morning.

Ladies, Your Menstrual Cycle Is On The Fritz

There’s no bun in the oven, but your menstrual periods are on hiatus. The technical term for a skipped period is amenorrhea.

Overtraining and/or under eating may cause the body to reallocate its attention away from non-essential functions such as your reproductive system, throwing your estrogen levels off whack and causing Aunt Flo to miss her appointments.

You Have Problem Skin

It’s no secret excessive exercise puts your body under physical stress and alike with mental stress, it can elevate your baseline levels of cortisol. Raised cortisol can boost oil production, resulting in oily skin and acne flare ups.

Dehydration from overtraining can result in dry, flaky skin and exasperate conditions like eczema and psoriasis. Your skin’s ability to heal and its function as a protective barrier may also be weakened.

You’re Having A Bad Hair/Nail Day Everyday

When your body is stressed out, it focuses its energy towards maintaining key survival functions – your brain, heart and lungs - leaving low-priority areas such as your hair and nails deprived of nutrients, brittle and lacking lustre and shine.

It may even cause hair loss – yikes! If you see tumbleweeds of hair rolling by, consider winding down the intensity of your training regime.