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Overtraining: Symptoms and Solutions

December 16, 2003 09:18 AM

By Jim Brown, Ph.D.

Overtraining is a condition of fatigue and underperformance that lasts at least two weeks and has no identifiable cause. It could be the result of intensive training and competition, inadequate recovery time between workouts, or training too aggressively or too soon following an illness.

Although some of the symptoms are the same, don’t confuse overtraining with chronic fatigue. Chronic fatigue is not the result of exercise, is not relieved by rest, and lasts six months or longer. Other possible symptoms include sore throat, low grade fever, painful lymph nodes, and chills.

Below is a list of symptoms that have been associated with overtraining. Tennis players will not exhibit all these markers, but could show a combination of them.

• depression
• unusual soreness or stiffness the day after training
• loss of appetite or loss of weight
• inability to complete normal training sessions
• increased anxiety
• sleep disturbances
• an increase of 8 to 10 heart beats per minute at rest
• swollen lymph nodes
• upper respiratory infections
• constipation or diarrhea

The overtrained athlete should take some time to rest, develop relaxation skills, and reduce the intensity, frequency, or duration of training. There is evidence showing that low-intensity exercise actually speeds recovery.

Preventing overtraining is easier than treating it. In addition to practices such as getting the proper amounts of sleep and eating a balanced diet, avoid increasing the intensity of an exercise program by more than ten percent a week, alternate light, moderate, and heavy exercise days, and monitor your blood pressure and heart rate for unusual changes.

© HMS Publishing, Inc.
Jim Brown will be contributing new content to this site on a monthly basis. If you have a question for Dr. Brown please feel free to email him at




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