First of all, let’s check out wikipedia’s definition of overtraining “Overtraining occurs when a person exceeds their body's ability to recover from strenuous exercise”
I couldn’t have said it better myself!
A couple of signs of overtraining are:
Persistent muscle soreness
Increased resting heart rate
Getting ill more frequently
Consistently carrying injuries
Loss of motivation
Now, the main reason this happens is from under recovering and too much training volume, you need to make sure you have enough rest with adequate calories and a high quality diet to fuel the recovery precess.
The best cure is always prevention:
1- Reduce volume
You can train hard or you can train long, but you can’t do both, for those of you who say you train for 2 hours at a HIGH intensity are most likely lying, genetically gifted, on steroids or all three.
2- Rest days
Rest at least 1 day per week for advanced athletes, but if you’re a beginner you’ll need 2-3 days of rest per week. Personally, I train 4 times per week, as long as the intensity is high enough and you’re progressively overloading your training, then it will be sufficient to induce the change needed to develop.
3- Deep tissue massage
You can go get yourself a nice massage or spend a bit of time each day doing some foam rolling.
4 - Adequate calories
As previously mentioned, calories are very important, if you want to develop your muscles and performance then you need to have enough calories coming in. It's important to ensure that a diet high in carbohydrates, lean proteins and healthy fats such as omega 3 oils.
5 - Avoid vitamin deficiencies
If you have a vitamin deficiency then you may be seeing signs of overtraining. I would recommend taking a good quality multivitamin as a nutritional safety net.
6 - Prioritise your training
Don’t try and build size, increase your 1 rep max deadlift whilst training for a marathon, I’m not saying it’s impossible to do all this at once, it’s just highly improbable and it’s not as optimal. This will result in you making little to no progress in each area. The better alternative is to focus your training phases on prioritising an objective, whether that’s building muscle, strength, endurance or reducing body fat percentage. It’s difficult to build muscle and lose fat at the same time as your body needs to be in two different states, anabolic for muscle building and catabolic for fat loss. Also, it’s difficult to build a large amount of strength and endurance at the same time as this works two different muscle types, you don’t see Eddie Hall running the London Marathon and you don’t see Sir Mo Farah deadlifting 500kg.
Having said all that, it’s difficult to find people who are overtrained away from the world of athletes, it’s more likely people are showing signs of overreaching, which is more common and takes less time to sort out. This is because us mere mortals don’t train that frequently, athletes will train on the border of overtrained and can sometimes push past that threshold, which can lead to injury long term.
Personally, I’ve only overtrained or more likely overreached once when I had to lose 10kg in 6 weeks for a boxing match whilst serving in the Army. I was training 4 times per day, 10 mile run in the morning, followed by boxing skills before lunch, followed by boxing circuits after lunch and then sparring in the evenings. It’s no wonder I was carrying numerous injuries and felt incredibly weak….. still kicked ass though.
If you’re feeling like you’re overtrained or overreached, then just take a step back by reducing volume, reassess your calories and macronutrients, take a couple of days off training or maybe even a week if needed. Once you’re feeling like yourself again, it’s time to get back on track.