Overtraining occurs when an individual increases their exercise volume and/or intensity while not allowing for enough recovery time and rest. The performance maybe reduced and plateau as the body is pushed physically further than it can handle. It’s ability to recover cannot keep up with the load it is placed under. An imbalance between the workouts and recovery is created resulting in stress and physical trauma to the body.
Overtraining is often seen in athletes who are training for a competition, a special event, or who are very active but it’s actually more common than you may think. Anyone following a regular and consistent exercise routine can overtrain. Normally a person will increase their training intensity and frequency simultaneously without including enough recovery time and adequate rest. Thinking that training longer and harder will improve their performance. In actual fact this may cause a decrease in performance, leading to both physical and mental signs and symptoms of overtraining syndrome.
It is during the rest period after training that your body builds greater strength and repairs the muscle fibres. It restores glycogen for your muscles and restores hormone levels. Once recovered, the body can perform at a higher level. However, when the body cannot repair the damage due to inadequate recovery time, regeneration cannot occur and performance plateaus and/or declines.
Many signs and symptoms are directly related to overtraining and the effects can be hormonal, emotional, nutritional, neurological and muscular imbalances, however this list is not exhaustive. Any of these imbalances in the body can cause other problems such as fatigue, depression, injuries, suppressed appetite and lowered performance.
There are different stages to overtraining. Usually it begins with subtle warning signs and symptoms, and if these go unnoticed or ignored, it can progress to a more serious end-stage of overtraining.
Common warning signs and symptoms:
- Fatigue, feeling drained or washed out
- General unexplained aches and pains
- Muscle and joint pain that lingers
- Sudden drop in performance levels
- Compromised immunity
- Lack of motivation for the sport
- Decreased appetite
- Increase in injuries
Treatment for overtraining syndrome is rest. Depending on the length of time that the overtraining syndrome has occurred, the amount of rest you may require will differ. If caught in the early stages, a few days to one week of no training is sufficient. However, if the case is more severe the individual may need to avoid their training for a number of weeks. Sometimes it may take months for a full recovery. It’s also important to keep yourself hydrated and drink plenty of fluids and alter your diet if necessary.
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