The effectiveness of high performance training should be examined at short intervals in order to recognize overtraining promptly. Field or laboratory tests can usually not be performed with such frequency. Easy-to-measure biological, training-relevant parameters are being sought to use in their place. Since the importance of the sympathetic nervous system for adaptation of stress and the relationship between physical training and the activity of the sympathetic nervous system are well accepted, and since an impairment of the sympathetic nervous system is assumed in an overtraining syndrome, we examined the relevance of nocturnal "basal" urinary excretion of free catecholamines with respect to its practical application: 1. during a pilot study (training of road and track cyclists before the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul), 2. through a 4-week prospective, experimental study in 1989 and 1990 (middle- and long-distance runners), 3. during the competitive season and winter break of a soccer team between August 1990 and April 1991. The following hypothesis was made: An overtraining or exhaustion syndrome in athletes may usually be accompanied by at least a 50% decrease in basal dopamine, noradrenaline and adrenaline excretion. When training is effective or the athletes are not exhausted, the decrease of the excretion rate--with the exception of dopamine--is more likely to be lower (noradrenaline, adrenaline). Generalization of these results requires further expansion of the experimental basis.