This can be a very real challenge to have, especially when you first start working with a new client and you haven’t developed that client/trainer relationship yet.  Not knowing how your client ticks could make it difficult to differentiate between an overtrained person and someone who is simply training hard.

Overtraining is defined as excessive frequency, volume, or intensity of training over an extended period of time, resulting in fatigue (which is also due to a lack of proper rest or recovery).  It can cause significant performance decreases in clients of all training levels.  If you have your client on a realistic, properly designed program and you suspect him or her of being overtrained – or, more likely, of ‘overreaching’ – it could potentially be due to their lack of self-care (sleep, nutrition, hydration, etc.) outside of the time spent with you.

On the flip side, your client could be doing everything right in those departments but feels the need to add-on additional training outside of the program that you’ve designed, without factoring in sufficient, planned rest.  Some clients have a hard time realizing that “more” doesn’t always equate to “bigger and/or better” and may not know that their extra workouts could be detrimental to their health.  Properly designed training programs are so important for meeting program goals and keeping clients healthy.

Overreaching, which is often incorporated into planned periodization programming, can be beneficial if used correctly but could lead to overtraining if abused.  Most clients that start to constantly feel tired or are not performing up to speed will naturally decrease training and increase recovery time, as opposed to constantly pushing through the fatigue and continuing to work hard.  However, as their trainer, it is important for you to learn to recognize ‘overreaching’ signs that might be damaging to your client’s health so that you know when programming changes are needed.

As you build the client/trainer relationship and continue to keep accurate records, you will come to learn when they may be struggling or not based on history.


Baechle, T & Earle, R, 2000, ‘Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning,’ NSCA, pp. 159-167; 514

Maureen Faherty

Maureen Faherty

Moe oversees corporate wellness and fitness initiatives as a Wellness Specialist for a financial services company and all their U.S. locations.She is also a Personal Trainer at Harvard Business School and the creator of Fitness MoeJo, a blog in which she shares advice, personal experiences and inspiration on maintaining a healthy, fit lifestyle.

She has a B.S. in Business Administration from Framingham State University and a M.S. in Physical Education/ Strength & Conditioning from Bridgewater State University. She is certified through the National Strength and Conditioning Association as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and with USA Weightlifting as a Sports Performance Coach.

Moe lives in Boston where she keeps busy crossing things off her fitness bucket list.
Maureen Faherty


News collects all the stories you want to read