written by Piotr Lewkowski, a UIC Senior in the Department of Kinesiology and an Intern at POW! in Chicago
Overtraining syndrome sounds like something athletes or hardcore fitness enthusiasts do to push their bodies to the next level. Technically that might be correct but it’s a level down, not up. What this means is that performance will suffer so long as the exercise program remains the same. Often the person affected by overtraining will feel beat or worn down.
Overtraining can affect both the physiological and mental faculties of an individual, but is often obscured by high levels of motivation or a false perception such as “no pain, no gain.” Typically it’s caused by inadequate recovery time between bouts of exercise. Nutrition can make overtraining worse if the person affected does not take in enough calories or is lacking in certain macro- (carbs, proteins, fats) and miconutrients (vitamins and minerals). Overtraining can be reversed simply by increasing rest, decreasing the intensity of work, or both.
Using a progressive workout program can prevent overtraining. A progressive program is characterized by manipulation of key variables, such as volume of work (reps x sets) and intensity (% of 1 rep max). Ideally you want to start with a program that has low volume and intensity, especially if you are doing something completely unfamiliar or have been “out of the game” for a while. Then volume and/or intensity are increased at specific times in order to improve performance while minimizing the risk of overtraining and injury. It pays to have a knowledgeable coach or trainer who is familiar with overtraining and can quickly recognize the signs and symptoms.
Taken formt he Journal of Applied Sports Science Research 5:35-50, 1991.