Balance over Burnout: How You Know if You Are Overtraining

Fitness // Anna Warwick // 11 January 2016

You’ve leapt full force into a new exercise regime and now you’re feeling run down and losing sleep. These could be signs you are overtraining. Getting in shape isn’t about smashing your body every day, recovery time is a vital part of the smart exercise equation.

Looking at the super fit and super toned trainers at the gym, it’s easy to assume that they train a couple of hours a day to get a body like that. The reality is – they don’t, and thinking you can get their body by relentless, intensive training is a potentially dangerous misapprehension says Gabi Bruce, 12WBT’s Support Crew Fitness Leader.

“All those really fit trainers you see working in the industry have put years and years of work into their bodies. A brand new exerciser cannot get to that shape in twelve weeks, just as you can’t squash a law degree into twelve weeks.”

It’s really about quality over quantity – and quality doesn’t mean going 110% every workout. “You want to train smart,” Gabi says. “When you’re exercising too much it’s just as unhelpful and dangerous for your body as not training at all.”

Signs you are overtraining

So how much exercise is too much? “Overtraining would be training every single day and smashing yourself to the ground every single time,” says Gabi. It could also mean regularly doing more than one training session a day.

After pushing your cardiovascular and muscular systems to the max during a hard training session, your body needs rest time to repair and regenerate. You need to allow your systems to recuperate so they are strong enough to cope with another hit.

10 warning signs you could be overtraining:

  1. You’re exhausted
  2. Prolonged muscle soreness and heaviness
  3. You keep getting sick
  4. Low energy
  5. Unintentional weight loss
  6. Irritability
  7. Lack of sleep
  8. Higher resting heart rate
  9. Lack of motivation to exercise
  10. You’ve hit a training plateau

How to prevent overtraining

When you start a training program, you need a plan that is sustainable and helps you achieve your fitness goals gradually. You need to pace yourself, so you’re not doing too little or too much.

With the right amount of training and the right amount of sleep and downtime, you will get a positive response to your exercise regime. But without sufficient rest, the body can’t regenerate. Continuing to put stress on the body without downtime will lead to burnout, and a vicious cycle of exhaustion.

“You get the best results with recovery time. When you don’t sleep, push your body too hard and don’t have enough nutrients, it’s like flogging a dead horse,” says 12WBT co-founder and fitness expert Amelia Philips.

“You’re going to be really tired and sore after a big session, especially if you’re a beginner, but there’s a difference between good exhaustion and over exertion. If you’re training smart you’re knackered but not crushed and run down,” says Gabi.

Also read: 10 Foods for a Natural Boost

Where to start

For those who are new to exercise, Gabi suggests you train as prescribed by 12WBT Exercise Plans –  for no more than five or six days a week.

“You only need to train for 45 mins in an hour followed by a warm down. It’s not good for your body to just stop cold, so this winding down period should be a central part of your training session and not an afterthought” she says.

It’s also recommended that you alternate the focus of your workout, so you give your cardiovascular and muscular systems adequate time to recover and adapt. For example, 12WBT Exercise Plans alternate the focus of workouts so you don’t do two days of intensive cardio focused sessions in a row.

“If you’re doing an all-out cardio blast, you’re deliberately pushing your cardiovascular system to its edge so that the next time you push out, the edge is further away. But you can’t do that every training session,” says Gabi. “Work a different system and get a different kind of hurt by working your strength and toning.”

Listen to your body and find your own level.”Everybody’s edge is different and how far you push also depends on what your training goal is. So when you’re first learning about your body, seek professional advice,” recommends Gabi.


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Meet the Author, Anna Warwick

Anna Warwick is a Sydney-based health and travel writer with more than 10 years experience across print and digital mediums. As a freelance lifestyle journalist she has contributed to more than 50 Australasian publications. Read author's full story here


  1. SayYesToRestDay Reply

    Hi Anna,

    We’re loving your blog post dedicated to finding a balance between being dedicated to your workout routine a healthy amount. I think it’s very important to allocate time in your schedule to allow for adequate rest and recovery, which is an aspect of training that is very much undervalued. Sadly, it is a common belief that it is ‘the more the merrier’ when it comes to exercise and many individuals push themselves too hard and are left with counterproductive effects.

    I’ve got an entire campaign dedicated to promoting the benefits of a rest day amongst avid exercisers. Check out our blog at We’re also on Facebook and Twitter

  2. Gini Taylor Reply

    Thanks so much for this information. I own up I do this time and time again. I do work hard out every session. I will now re think my strategy. 🙂

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