Fitness Friday: Overtraining

This post has been difficult for me to write.  I think overtraining is a fine line that I have been known to cross regularly.  But I also feel that the “Eat less, move more” message has probably been taken to heart by the wrong people.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s a great message, BUT, in some cases they are preaching to the converted.

There are so many blogs dedicated to eating disorders and disordered eating – and the same goes for exercise.  There is a market for people looking to get skinny/fit/strong etc, and they are probably doing things right already.  If you already do your ‘quota’ of exercise and eat a healthy diet – no good is going to come from you “eating less and moving more”.

Overtraining and overtraining syndrome have been identified by a number of blogs: Mark’s Daily Apple, Chris Kresser and BioLayne.

Overtraining can impact on adrenal and hypothalmic function and increases risk of severe injury and extreme weightloss.  Too much exercise has been linkedto an increase in the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol and adrenal function are important to maintain a good metabolism. Your exercise regime could backfire and teach your body to store fat instead of burning it.

Nabbed from BioLayne’s youtube feed – Layne instists that overtraining in itself isn’t a bad thing (in particular he is talking about strength training where you rest between sets) but with the caveat that YOU NEED ADEQUATE REST TO ALLOW FOR RECOVERY!

So how much exercise is too much?

The ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) guidelines are 30-60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five times a week – or 20-60 mintes of high-intensity exercise three times per week.

You may have heard that the UK government recommend 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 times a week.  Current NHS guidelines recommend:

  • At least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity such as cycling or fast walking every week, and
  • muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).


  • 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity such as running or a game of singles tennis every week, and
  • muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).
  • An equivalent mix of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity every week (for example 2 30-minute runs plus 30 minutes of fast walking), and
  • muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).

It was news to me that muscle-strengthening has been added to the guidelines.  So what do they class as muscle strengthening?

There are many ways you can strengthen your muscles, whether it’s at home or in the gym. Examples of muscle-strengthening activities for most people include:

  • lifting weights
  • working with resistance bands
  • doing exercises that use your body weight for resistance, such as push-ups and sit-ups
  • heavy gardening, such as digging and shovelling
  • yoga

Ben latched onto an article in my Health and Fitness: August 2014 edition:

If you’re clocking four or more hardcore workouts (at anything between 80-100% of Max heart rate) or over 150 minutes of intense exercise (that’s like 2.5 hours worth of Tabata) you could be at risk of overtraining.  Worse yet, you might be suffering from an exercise addiction)

So who is at risk of exercise addiction? recognises exercising normally as:

Whether an amateur or elite athlete (and everything in between), the markers of normal exercise involve two critical behaviors:

  1. Adequate rest. Additional rest when injured to achieve full recovery.
  2. Taking in adequate energy in correctly timed intervals to stay strong and at peak performance at all times. Any accidental undernourishment is quickly rectified.

They distinguish between exercise addiction and Anorexia Athletica Try out their quiz to see if you are showing symptoms of Anorexia Athletica ([G. Olwyn, 2011].) or exercise addiction (Annabel Terry, Attila Szabo and Mark Griffiths (2003).)

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, dietician or personal trainer.  I am reporting information I have read and have provided sources where possible for your own research.  If you are concerned about anything you have read please see your GP.


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3 thoughts on “Fitness Friday: Overtraining

  1. worldofmee June 28, 2014 at 7:15 am Reply

    Thanks for the info hun. Really interesting reading.

  2. […] written on my own blog before about overtraining – but this looks into the psychological aspects of exercise as a form of […]

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