What is Overtraining Syndrome?

Woman lifting weights
Photo by John Arano on Unsplash

If you’re an athlete or even just an avid exerciser, you might wonder about the limits to which you can push your body. Maybe in the past you’ve felt exhausted, burnt-out, sore, and/or unmotivated after a hard week of workouts and wondered if maybe you’re overtraining. Well, it’s important to know the difference between overtraining and Overtraining Syndrome (OTS).

Overtraining refers to working out a lot without enough rest or recovery time, leading to symptoms like:

  • Soreness, pain, and muscle strain
  • Fatigue
  • Reduced appetite
  • Irritably and agitation
  • Decline in performance
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Loss of motivation
  • Workouts feeling more challenging

OTS, however, is a complex clinical disorder requiring a medical diagnosis that involves symptoms like:

  • Depression
  • Bradycardia (abnormally slow heart rate)
  • Loss of motivation
  • Hypertension
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Waking up feeling unrefreshed
  • Anorexia
  • Weight loss
  • Lack of mental concentration
  • Heavy, sore, or stiff muscles

As you can see, OTS is significantly more serious. That being said, it’s also much less common, usually only seen in 30 – 40% of elite athletes. So if you’re working out (even intensely) on a lower level than a professional athlete, you probably don’t have to worry about OTS. But go ahead and see a doctor if you’re concerned.