I’m sure a lot of you reading this have been seeing a lot of coverage of the recent Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang. We all know that these athletes train extremely hard in order to excel in their respective sports. However, there is a very fine line between training hard to achieve desired results and overtraining. Achieving a balance between exercise and rest is essential for self-regulation and improved sporting performance in the long term. So how much training is too much?
Many athletes simply believe that more training equals better results. Whether you’re training to increase your deadlift 1RM at the gym, preparing to run a half-marathon, or competing at an international level in sport, athletes often make the mistake of training too hard, and subsequently injuring themselves in the process.
So what IS overtraining?
Most of you have probably heard of the term ‘burnout’ amongst athletes in sport. Burnout, otherwise known as ‘overtraining’, occurs when the body fails to adapt to the training load being placed upon it. High training loads lead to high levels of stress on the body. When there is not enough time to rest and recuperate between training sessions, the body remains in this high-stress state, and is more susceptible to fatigue and injury. The threshold for this state differs between individuals, however injury can be subject to anyone. That’s why you could be anyone from a twice-a-week bodypump class attendee, to an elite athlete training 7 days per week, but still suffer symptoms of overtraining. In fact, beginners are often more likely to experience symptoms of overtraining, as their bodies are not as used to these loads and stresses being placed upon them.
What are the signs and symptoms of overtraining?
Sometimes it can be hard to tell whether an overtraining syndrome has occurred, as it often comes on quite gradually. The first thing athletes usually notice is a drop in performance. They often feel that they need to work harder than normal to achieve the same results - which can actually lead to a downhill spiral of worsening performance. This can lead to changes in mood, with athletes often reporting increased feelings of depression, anger, tiredness and frustration. Some other tell-tale signs of overtraining include fatigue, insomnia, loss of appetite and a generally weaker immune system. When the body is under so much stress and is not given adequate time to recover, it struggles to maintain a healthy state.
So what can I do to fix it?
The answer to this is quite simple… Rest! Adjust your training schedule to introduce more rest days, add more light recovery exercises such as yoga or walking into your weekly workout or simply reduce the intensity or duration of your workouts to ensure your body gets adequate recovery time. If you are concerned that this will further diminish your sporting performance, you will more than likely return feeling better and stronger than you did previously.
If you think you are suffering symptoms of overtraining, talk to your trainer or physiotherapist about seeking treatment.