By | June 10, 2022

The sports medical diagnosis of overtraining refers to a chronic overload reaction after excessive or frequent training. The symptoms triggered are varied and the therapy complex.

What is overtraining?

Overtraining is a physical state of exhaustion that primarily affects beginners in sports and regular exercise in general. Those affected have overtaxed their bodies with too intensive, too long or too frequent training with too few rest phases and too short regeneration times. This leads to a decrease in physical performance and a variety of symptoms. These are divided into sympathetic and parasympathetic symptoms. For what is the definition of hypovolemic shock, please visit healthknowing.com.

The task of the parasympathetic nervous system is physical recovery; after exertion, it has to pump the blood back into the digestive organs and slow down the pulse. If there are insufficient periods of rest, the result is a reduced resting heart rate and a rapid drop in heart rate after training, reduced physical performance and general sluggishness. Unlike sympathetic overtraining, sleep, body weight, and appetite are unaffected.

The sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for maintaining physical performance, has to specifically restrict the digestive functions, pump blood into the tissues and increase the heart rate. If overtraining occurs, in addition to the parasympathetic symptoms, an increased resting heart rate, a significantly delayed physical recovery after stress with a permanent lack of energy, sleep disorders, increased susceptibility to injuries and infections and reduced appetite with weight loss occur. Psychological symptoms are also possible, in particular increased irritability, depression and a lack of motivation.


The causes of overtraining have not yet been adequately researched. Basically, it can be said that there is an imbalance between the required recovery phases and the physical stress during training, so that the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems come out of their natural cycle.

Risk factors that can cause overtraining are known to date. These include constant endurance training at very high heart rates, a rapid increase in training intensity, too few rest periods and a high frequency of competition. Risk factors to be found outside of sport are also known, including psychological stress and an unbalanced diet.

Typical Symptoms & Signs

  • Low resilience during further training and also in everyday life
  • possibly knee pain or joint pain
  • exhaustion
  • headache
  • sleep disorders
  • susceptibility to infection

Diagnosis & History

Although overtraining is a well-known disease that can affect competitive athletes and over-motivated beginners in particular, there is still no diagnostic scheme.

The lack of a clear diagnosis is accompanied by an internationally inconsistent classification. In Germany, a distinction is made between sympathetic and parasympathetic overtraining, in Anglo-American-speaking countries the distinction is made according to the severity of the symptoms. Overload is the weak clinical picture that does not require therapy and can subside with sufficient regeneration, overtraining is the longer-term, often chronic form accompanied by severe symptoms.

Symptoms such as sleep and concentration disorders and a rapid feeling of exhaustion with a long perceived regeneration period are used for early detection. If these symptoms occur, the person concerned should consult a sports medicine doctor as soon as possible. The prognosis and course are based on the severity of the symptoms. Severe overtraining can take months for the body to recover.


Overtraining can lead to a number of complications. First of all, excessive training achieves the opposite of the desired increase in performance – there is a drop in performance because the body cannot maintain the level of training. In addition to fatigue and mood swings, overtraining can also cause hormonal changes.

A drop in testosterone production occurs mainly after severe overloads and leads to massive muscle breakdown. Repeated overtraining can lead to a weakening of the immune system, combined with an increased risk of infection and allergies. In addition, physical overload can lead to muscle injuries, damage to tendons and ligaments and inflammation in the joints.

In the long term, overtraining puts a strain on the entire organism and thus also on the mental state. The lack of training success and the physical complaints promote depression and personality changes. If the symptoms of overtraining are improperly treated, for example with performance-enhancing drugs or increasing the intensity of training, serious complications can result.

Permanent overloading of the body can cause muscle injuries, poor posture and mental illness. In the worst case, chronic fatigue syndrome or cardiovascular disease develops.

When should you go to the doctor?

People who are active in sports are well advised to tailor their training sessions to the needs and requirements of the organism. Excessively intensive training or physical exercises at short intervals can lead to overstraining of the body and thus not achieve the desired effect. Normally, no doctor is needed, since the organism sends signals independently when it reaches its limits. If the person concerned sticks to the natural guidelines, the symptoms will be alleviated after overexertion as soon as a sufficient rest and recovery phase has taken place.

It is advisable to seek cooperation with a trained trainer when improving your fitness. In addition, a doctor can help you develop a good exercise plan. At the same time, it provides information about which specifications should be observed in order to avoid overtraining in advance. If the desired goals are repeatedly not achieved after training, consultation with a doctor should be sought. If physical fitness decreases despite the increase in exercise units, the training plan should be optimized. To improve your health, consult a doctor. This compares the target specifications with the existing physical capabilities of the person concerned and gives tips on how to avoid overtraining.

Treatment & Therapy

The treatment of overtraining must be based on the severity of the symptoms and is based on the pillars of early detection, prevention, sports medicine treatment and rest. There is no proven effective therapy for overtraining.

The break in exercise should last until the symptoms have disappeared and the morning resting heart rate can be considered normal again. The exact duration must be decided on a case-by-case basis and the willingness to start again must be questioned.

Getting back to work too early carries many risks and side effects and should therefore be avoided. However, you can often look forward to one advantage of rest: when the body has time to regenerate, the muscles grow again.

Rehabilitation measures such as massages, visits to the sauna, swimming, gymnastics and stretching help to relax the body. It is also important to avoid everyday stress.


Doping does not serve to prevent overtraining, on the contrary it damages the body even more. Because the person concerned does not notice when he has reached his performance limit.

A sensible prevention consists of avoiding stress, getting enough sleep, a balanced diet and an exercise plan supervised by a licensed trainer. Sufficient rest periods, varied exercise and slowly increasing the training intensity are important prevention components.

According to the theory of supercompensation, you should take a break of about 48 hours between two training sessions to give the body the rest it needs and to expect an increase in performance.

You can do that yourself

Overtraining encompasses a whole complex of symptoms that sufferers can do a lot to prevent or eliminate these symptoms more quickly. Because overtraining is a behavioral ailment, it is also down to behavioral change to end the condition. Hard physical training is taboo in this phase. Since many of those affected suffer from tachycardia, restlessness and nervousness as part of overtraining, many people find it difficult not to be active at all. Low-dose activity such as walking the dog or bowling with friends can fulfill the desire for exercise without further straining the already overstrained body.

The stressed muscles can also be treated by various regeneration measures. A hot bath is often just as helpful in this context as self-massage with the hedgehog ball. Drinking enough water is also important. It helps flush lactic acid products out of the body.

The mind and spirit of an overtrained person is also often in turmoil. In such cases, relaxation methods such as progressive muscle relaxation or autogenic training can help to regain balance. Yoga is also a good way to calm down with physical and breathing exercises as well as relaxation and maybe even a little meditation.