Identifying and Treating Training Fatigue

Does this sound like you?

“You’re tired. Your training stinks. Your race results suck. You’re starting to hate your workouts. On the bike training rides, your nickname is OTB (off the back). People are starting to make fun of you.”

If so, you may be suffering from what Dr. Herman Falsetti of Competitor magazine calls “the burden of fatigue, the pain of exhaustion.” And you may have done the worst thing possible: Ignored it, or actually trained harder.

Identifying and Treating Training Fatigue

Online trainer Karen Voight says if you start to suffer from such symptoms as losing interest in social activities or even sex, needing coffee or some other stimulant to get through workouts, or if you lack patience in day-to-day activities and find yourself short, ill-tempered and constantly tired, you’re probably experiencing exercise exhaustion.

Check with a physician if you maintain a regular exercise schedule and feel physically and mentally run-down all the time. The answer may simply be to bring more balance in your life — it’s probably not a good idea to work full-time, go to school part-time and train for triathlons without giving yourself breaks and taking days off.

Adults need seven to eight hours’ sleep per night as much as kids do, especially adults who cram more action into their days.

If symptoms persist, check with your physician to see if you have any of the following:


  • Iron Deficiency/Anemia — A strong possibility of you’re a woman, over 40, vegetarian and a distance runner. Get your blood count checked for iron and total body iron (ferritin). Sometimes iron tablets with vitamin B and C can help promote iron absorption, but results take weeks to show.
  • Thyroid Deficiency/Hypothyroidism — This is a slow-developing condition which seems to target postmenopausal women, but can occur anywhere. It’s marked by drying skin, hair loss — particularly in the eyebrows. You feel colder, and may even register a lower body temperature. It’s not caused by overtraining, but your training suffers. Diagnosis and treatment are done through a qualified physician.
  • Overtraining/Burnout — A common problem in athletes, professional and amateur — simply doing too much. Most injuries and health problems associated with exercise are caused by overstressing muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones, and other tissues, and athletes who overtrain risk injury and illness, according to the Alta Bates Medical Center, as muscles require twenty-four to forty-eight hours to properly recover from strenuous exercise. Besides a general feeling of staleness, symptoms of burnout include a higher than normal resting heart rate and other pulse fluctuations, with a sore throat, weight loss, insomnia and depression accompanying decreased performance. Sometimes blood tests of overtrainers will show decreased hemoglobin counts or muscle enzyme imbalances.

Some athletes may be suffering from more exotic afflictions, such as the Epstein-Barr Virus, which must be diagnosed by a physician. But all athletes can avoid the most common error when dealing with overtraining — training harder in the hope of improving fitness. All this ever does is make matters worse.

The information contained in or made available through This Site cannot replace or substitute for the services of trained professionals in the medical field. We do not recommend any treatment, drug, food or supplement. You should regularly consult a doctor in all matters relating to physical or mental health, particularly concerning any symptoms that may require diagnosis or medical attention.

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