What is Overtraining? Signs and Solutions
Overtraining, a term that is used in the context of activities involving a high level of physical or mental stress, can be described as an excessive amount of exercise performed by the athlete. Overtraining is associated with chronic fatigue and when unresolved can result in serious consequences.
Why Overtraining Occurs?
Overtraining occurs because of either too much intensity, frequency, or duration of exercise used by the trainer. The excessive amount of exercise can be caused by too long of a workout or by training at too high of an intensity for the individual's level of fitness.
- Training errors - occur when an athlete does not know their limits and continues training despite feeling fatigued, illness, injury, etc. A lack of experience can also contribute to this type of overtraining.
- Training plateaus - occur when an athlete continually trains at the same intensity and does not give his/her body a chance to recover from the exercise. If an individual does not allow enough rest between workouts, training plateaus can occur due to inadequate recovery time.
Signs of Overtraining
1) Decreased Performance
There are two ways to measure performance, objectively and subjectively.
- Subjective - feeling of physical or mental fatigue, not sleeping well, lack of motivation, etc. A review of injuries may suggest poor performance due to overtraining.
- Objective - decreased speed/power output, heart rate is higher at the same pace as previous workouts, weight loss despite no change in diet, etc.
2) Psychological Symptoms of Overtraining
There are various psychological symptoms to look for if an athlete is overtraining:
- Mood swings - irritability or depression can be a sign that the individual needs rest.
- Insomnia - the athlete may have difficulty sleeping which could result from poor nutrition/dehydration, too much exercise without enough rest, etc.
- Poor concentration - the athlete may have trouble focusing on the task at hand due to fatigue.
- Conflict with others - overtraining can result in negative feelings toward family members or coaches which could lead to arguments/fights.
3) Physical Symptoms of Overtraining
An athlete will experience various physical symptoms if he/she is overtraining:
Shortness of breath- the body may not be getting enough oxygen due to decreased cardiovascular capacity.
- Elevated heart rate - the elevated heart rate could result from too much training, dehydration, or poor diet.
- Decreased appetite - lack of nutrients in the diet can contribute to decreased performance.
- Muscle soreness - overworked muscles from the last workout may result in delayed recovery time.
- Injury - if an athlete is not recovering properly from a previous workout, there is a risk for injury during the next one.
Overtraining can occur quickly if an athlete is not careful with managing their training routine. Overtraining can result in performance setbacks, injuries, and illnesses so it is important for athletes to prevent overtraining during physical activity.
Here are some solutions for athletes to avoid overtraining:
1) Adjust Training Schedule
If an athlete's performance is decreasing or he/she is becoming more and more fatigued, they may need to take a break from training. The length of the break can vary depending on individuals but it should be no shorter than 2 days and no longer than 7-10 days. If the athlete returns to training after a rest period, they should do so with less volume and intensity than before.
2) Recovery Diet
Whether an athlete is just beginning their season or has already been in competition for several weeks, it may be beneficial for them to have a recovery diet. The emphasis of the diet will differ based on the athlete's needs but it should include a variety of nutrients to promote recovery from training. If an athlete does not have access to a registered dietician, searching online for recovery diets may be beneficial.
3) Proper Nutrition and Hydration
Proper nutrition and hydration are key to avoiding illness and injury during physical activity because the body needs the proper nutrients to recover from training. Athletes should also monitor their hydration levels by drinking plenty of water before, during, and after physical activity. It is beneficial for athletes to drink 8-10 glasses of water each day which can be measured out based on the athlete's body weight (e.g., 1 glass of water per 10 lbs).
4) Avoid Stress
Over time, excessive stress can lead to overtraining symptoms. An athlete may choose to see a sports psychologist or cognitive behavioral therapist in order to manage their stress levels and decrease the risk of overtraining symptoms.
5) Individualize Training
When training for their sport, it is important that an athlete does not try to complete workouts that are too advanced for them because this could lead to overuse injuries and overtraining. When planning a workout routine, athletes should always follow their coach's plan or have one created by a physical therapist.
6) Practice Good Time Management
When athletes are busy with homework, work, and other personal responsibilities, it can be difficult for them to make time for their training. However, committing to a good time management plan will help the athlete set aside time every day for physical activity. If an athlete commits to these solutions for overtraining, they should not suffer from the effects of overtraining.
7) Learn From Mistakes
It's natural for athletes to make mistakes while training but it is important that they learn from them. It can be challenging for some athletes to take the time out of their busy schedules to reflect on their workout routines and adjust accordingly. However, this activity will help athletes prevent overuse injuries and reduce the risk of overtraining.
8) Rest for Recovery
No matter the physical activity intensity level, athletes should always rest for recovery between workouts. Many athletes do not realize that rest can actually improve their performance because it helps them recover from training and avoid burnout.
9) Personal Trainer for Motivation
It's a good idea for athletes to have a personal trainer who can motivate them to work out regularly, regardless of their existing schedule. There are several ways in which a personal trainer can motivate an athlete including planning workout routines according to the athlete's goals, creating a safe environment to train, providing expert training advice, and setting achievable goals.
10) Balance Competitive Nature With Emotional Stamina
Excessive stress during physical activity can lead to overtraining. It is important for athletes to understand their stress levels in order to manage them properly because high levels of stress can result in decreased motivation, burnout, and overtraining.
An athlete's performance can suffer due to overtraining which occurs when the individual is not able to recover from training because of excessive physical activity. Overtraining can result in decreased body weight, injuries, illnesses, and impaired mental health so it is important for athletes to prevent overtraining during physical activity. There are some solutions that athletes can use to avoid overtraining which include adjusting their training schedule, creating a recovery diet, practicing good time management, and learning from mistakes.