Overtraining Signs – Strategies To Prevent Injury & Burnout

Workouts feeling a little harder than normal?

You may be overtraining or I like to call it over “reaching”. I like you, didn’t think this was a real thing until it happened to me years ago when I was preparing to go into the military.

I was training to be a Navy Seal at the time. I thought that more was better, more push ups, more pull ups, more running, more swimming, more, more, more…more.

I remember getting ready for my workout which involved a lot of push ups and at the time I could do 75+ without stopping. This day I was doing sets of 10 and just had NOTHING else to give. I wasn’t sick, my mindset felt fine, and I was just confused at what was going on.

I had overreached. In today’s blog post I’ll be covering:

Ready to join a training program that factors in all of these things to maximize your potential without causing burnout? Check out our training programs that keep volume, intensity, and recovery in mind for each training block to maximize performance.

kettlebell swings
Let’s dive into what overtraining means

Signs & Symptoms Of Overtraining

Overtraining can be a silent hurdle for athletes who are looking to maximize performance. Whether that be strength, muscle growth, conditioning, if you aren’t aware of overtraining…you will find out the hard way.

Overtraining manifest:

  • physically
  • psychologically
  • and behaviorally.

Persistent fatigue, decreased performance, mood swings, and changes in your appetite or sleep patterns are some common indicators.

Your body does not know the difference between physical, mental and emotional stress. If you vision a cup of water…

…once you have too much water (stress) your cup begins to overflow and you (the cup) can’t handle it anymore.

Going too heavy too often will fry your CNS. Let’s talk about what that means

Factors Contributing To Overtraining

A lot of things as I mentioned above go contribute to overtraining but if we get more specific about the actual work itself, we are referring to:

  • training volume and intensity
  • lack of recovery (nutrition, sleep, and rest)
  • stress

I’ve been asked before:

“What do you mean by frying your CNS?”

Clients, athletes, etc

CNS is short for central nervous system, aka your brain and spinal cord. Now, let’s talk about why deadlifting too heavy, too often will “fry” your CNS.

  1. Deadlifts require a ton of demand on which muscles? Your back, your erectors (muscles that wrap around your spine) which is the primary area where your spine communicates to your brain…therefor causing a massive stress response.
  2. When you deadlift there is no “stretch/reflex” meaning you are starting from a dead stop, and this requires more muscle recruitment.
  3. Deadlifting and squatting are done with HEAVY loads (weight) and that is demanding neurologically.
how to improve grip strength for deadlifts
We love to train heavy at K Squared Fitness, but we are extremely intentional about when it’s programmed.

How To Access If You Are Overtraining

Monitoring performance metrics can help you gauge your body’s response to training.

Things like:

  • heart rate variability
  • strength
  • endurance
  • energy levels

You want to learn to be in tune with your body but let me let you in on probably the best data driven way to find this out, HRV.


Want to be able to receive a snatch in the bottom like our athlete Cooper? Take our training program for a spin and let’s hop on a call together to talk about your goals.

Heart rate variability

Unlike your static heart rate, which is if you were to just take your pulse. HRV tracks the variation in time intervals BETWEEN your heart beats, reflecting the autonomic nervous systems balance between stress and recovery.

A higher HRV often means you are well recovered, indicating you are ready to rip a solid workout and the opposite for when your HRV is low. In this case you your body is signaling you might need to:

Your next question is okay well how do I measure my HRV? There are several different apps and heart rate monitors out there that track this. My 2 favorite are (not affiliated)

  1. Garmin –> requires higher end watch, but no membership, this is what I use.
  2. Whoop –> requires membership but very popular for competitive athletes, people looking to take performance tracking to next level.
overtraining signs
Here is a free way to track

A free way to track this is to measure your resting heart rate first thing in the morning. My watch does this for me, but you could easily do it yourself. So check this out, see how on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday my resting heart rate begin to rise?

This was a sign that I was trending in the wrong direction and is a potential sign of overtraining. I noticed that it was on the rise, pulled back and made some adjustments and then it settled and went back down.

Within our training programs we know this is going to happen and that’s why we intentionally program hard days and easy days.

Not everyday are you supposed to absolutely send it. It’s a balance.

In fact, you are only as good as you can recover.

how to program crossfit

Strategies To Prevent Overtraining

Structured periodization, prioritizing recovery, thoughtful nutrition intake, rest, managing stress, and focusing on your mental well being are really all the things that need to be taken into consideration.

But, if you are like most you just want to know about the workouts.

So how do you program?

  • do you just add 5 lbs to what you are doing each week?
  • do you train 3 days a week?
  • how often should you be deadlifting or doing the big 3?

Well, I don’t have the capacity to transcribe this all in a blog post that most of you wouldn’t even read but I can give you some key take aways.

Following a proven program is the fastest way to your success.

To prevent overtraining you want to have structured periodization programming. I did a full write up on what a training cycle is, you should check that out.

We talk about:

  • macro, meso, and micro cycles
  • objective data versus subjective data
  • why you should test and re-test
  • and much more

Read the full article here.

ice bath
Should you be taking ice baths?

Adequate Rest & Recovery Techniques

By incorporating the proper rest and recovery techniques into your routine, you can optimize your bodies ability to:

  • repair
  • adapt
  • and perform at it’s best by reducing the risk of overtraining and injury.


    Quality sleep is paramount for recovery. Aim to get 7-9 hours a night.

    A few quick sleep tips:

    1. turn overhead lights off after 6 pm
    2. take a hot shower/hot bath before bed
    3. stretch for 3-5 minutes focusing on your breathe after your bath
    4. go to bed at the same time every night (if possible)
    5. no phones an hour before bed
    crossfit engine
    Active recovery is better than rest*

    Active Recovery

    After talking to a lot of athletes and people who just want to be healthy active recovery is something that I hear a lot of, and it should be.

    It helps to promote blood blow and does not need to be intense exercise. Think more along the lines of:

    One of my favorite it a ruck walk.

    One of the best things you can do for your digestion actually is going for a 10-20 minute walk after your meals.

    post workout nutrition
    After a hard training session, you need to fuel.

    Nutrition For Recovery

    Optimal nutrition is crucial. Now, I’m going to stay the obvious here but…a balanced diet rich in WHOLE foods, emphasizing protein to repair muscle tissue and carbohydrates to replenish glycogen storage and healthy fats for…your health.

    Dont be afraid of healthy fats.

    Also don’t be afraid of carbohydrates. If you are training hard you actually probably need a lot more than you think.

    Check out this article I wrote on post workout nutrition best practices.

    mental health

    Hydration & Mental Recovery

    A ton of athletes don’t take hydration serious enough and maybe you wouldn’t if you know that being dehydrated alone can drop your performance by up to 10%.

    I personally prioritize:

    • sodium
    • magnesium
    • potassium
    • bcaa and eaa

    The first thing I have when I wake up is a glass of water with LMNT and during my workout I drink EAA. You can learn more about what pre workout nutrition looks like on this article.

    And you gotta spend some time outside of the gym. Relax a little bit (I’ll admit its hard for me) that’s why I do things that are active but get me outside.

    Play sports, hike to a waterfall, go bowling, things are a both fun and active. I do also prioritize time for prayer and deep breathing. I often do this while in the hot bath to focus on a calm mind and deep breathing.

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    I get it, you are someone who wants to maximize your potential by pressing on more and more. I am the same way, I want to be the best that I can.

    Understanding and RESPECTING the signs of overtraining should be pivotal in your training process. Seeing the red flags not only safeguards you from injury and burnout but also will keep your body in a training state that is optimal for performance.

    Remember the journey of optimal performance isn't always about more, more, more - it's about listening to your body, striking a balance between training volume, intensity, and recovery.

    Learn to be in tune with your body and listen to what your body is communicating to you and you'll go to heights you haven't seen before.

    Ready to redefine your fitness and have a little functional body building in your life? Join our K2 Fitness program that blends body building with serious fitness for the ultimate transformation.

    Join the program thousands of athletes (includes NFL athletes) who trust our programming to get them stronger, faster and improve performance. 

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