Am I over training?October 12, 2015
Whether you are training for an upcoming race or athletic season, it is important to keep a balance between training and recovery. Maximizing your performance through training is a wonderful experience, especially when you can see the amazing achievements your body is capable of. When you increase the intensity or change up your exercise program, you can risk overtraining and overuse injuries if not done properly. Injuries can occur because your body is not used to the increase in activity or exercise. If you continue to increase the intensity of your training without adding in proper recovery, you may end up with overtraining syndrome. Overtraining syndrome not only affects your muscles, but multiple body systems. Overtraining syndrome occurs because the activity level is increasing faster than your body can adapt to and it is unable to recover. As a result, your body tells you that you have overdone it through a variety of responses.
Signs and Symptoms of Overtraining
If you notice the following symptoms after a hard workout, you may be over doing it. These symptoms can also persist during a prolonged time off after intense weeks/months of training.
- Overall feeling of fatigue
- Decreased appetite and upset stomach
- Constant thirst
- Difficulty sleeping and awakening unrefreshed
- Becoming sick more often due to decreased immune system
- Abnormal muscle soreness and muscles that feel heavy and stiff
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure, especially during activity
- Decreased motivation, difficulty concentrating, difficulty coping with stress
- Decreased strength and endurance
- Increased amount of errors and poor coordination during activity/sport
Individuals with overtraining syndrome will present with a decrease in their performance without a good explanation. A good history will help identify if overtraining is occurring, or if something else is going on. Your therapist or physician may ask specific questions about your training/sport schedule, your appetite and eating schedule, how much sleep you are getting, and any changes in mood. Your physician may also have you undergo blood tests in order to rule out other possible causes for your symptoms. Typically with overtraining syndrome, these symptoms will linger despite weeks of recovery. Potential triggers of overtraining syndrome include increasing your training load without adequate rest time, excessive amount of events (races, games, competitions), disturbed sleep, outside life stressors, previous illness, and excessive heat exposure.
Common Overtraining Mistakes
It is important to change up and increase the intensity of your fitness routine in order to improve your performance. However, increasing the intensity too much and pushing yourself too hard can result in injuries that will overall decrease your performance and may even end your athletic career. Following a structured plan that gradually increases your activity safely will help you improve your performance and stay healthy. Here are common mistakes that can lead to overtraining:
- Increasing exercise intensity too quickly– Your training should progress in increments at a safe and steady pace. Following a structured training regimen will control how quickly you increase your exercise difficulty and help you stay healthy. For running, gradually increase speed, elevation, and duration.
- Listen to your body – If you notice signs and symptoms of overtraining, then take a break! Modify your activity and gradually increase it once you are feeling better. Taking a day to rest will not significantly decrease your performance, just like one day of training will not make you an Olympic athlete.
- Not easing into training – If you have not trained all winter and expect to start where you left of last training period, you are at risk for injury and overtraining. Playing ‘catch up’ is not smart. Do not expect to make up for 2-3 months of minimal exercise with a few weeks of intense exercise. You are not an overnight success story in training. Save yourself the frustration and injuries and be patient.
How to prevent Overtraining Syndrome
Rest/Recovery– Schedule days off in your training plan and use them! You have earned those rest days and your body needs them to stay healthy. Skipping recovery after your workouts is a big mistake, even if you are feeling healthy. Take time every day to stretch, foam roll, ice, and hydrate.
Get Sleep – Adequate sleep not only gives your body time to repair and build itself, it also helps your mood. Not getting enough sleep can put a damper on your immune system as well, further decreasing your training performance.
Eat and Hydrate well – Food is fuel for your body. It is important to make sure you increase your food and water intake as your activity level increases. Restricting your intake will only further dampen your performance.
Tapering before a competition, resting at least 6 hours in between training sessions, and avoiding extreme conditions such as excess temperatures will also help prevent overtraining syndrome.
How can Physical Therapy Help?
Your physical therapist can help you develop a safe and proper training plan or help identify training errors. This will allow you to stay healthy and pain free, while you safely meet your fitness goals. Your therapist will check you strength, motion, and endurance to see where your training baseline is. Your therapist will also take a thorough history and physical to make sure your symptoms are from overtraining and not something more serious. A physical therapist will also watch how you move and perform your specific activity. This way they can adjust any improper form/movements in order to prevent increase stressed on a specific body part.
Work smart, not hard. Overtraining will not make you a better athlete and may even make you perform worse. Training without recovery is like a week without a weekend. Your body (and mind) needs it!
Meet with one of the world class physical therapists at Total Performance Physical Therapy!
Kreher JB, Schwartz JB. Overtraining syndrome: a practical guide. Sports Health. 2012; 4(2): 128-138