Overtraining? How do you know?

im00002533.jpgThe concept of overtraining is somewhat obscure to the average person.  It is much easier to identify overtraining signs in others than it is in ourselves.  It is condition that can manifest physically or mentally for both an athlete or hard-core exerciser.  So how exactly can you identify overtraining ?

Simply put it is when your conditioning or training intensity exceeds the capacity to recover.   Overtraining is an easily changeable condition and its primary variable of consideration is recovery time.   When the body or mind does not have the appropriate time to recover it actually overtraining1.jpginterferes with any workout being beneficial to the body.  This is an easy ‘syndrome’ to experience when you are intensely training for something in particular, your mental focus is strong, but the focus acts as a set of blinders preventing you from having perspective.  This is where the role of a coach is truly valuable because they have a more objective point of view on how you are balancing out the actual minutes of training, the technical aspects that need to be covered and the rest time needed.  Although nutrition and caloric intake is not generally considered in the evaluation process of ‘overtraining syndrome’, I have found that individuals that do not get enough recovery time because they spend too much time working out, also lack balanced nutrition.

Progress of performance will be hampered by excessive training without appropriate recovery time.  As I mentioned before, it is a little obscure as a phenomenon and many of its symptoms can mimic other conditions like even the common cold – where the body feels completely run down.   You can actually suffer from acute or chronic overtraining.  The acute form is when it is specific to a muscle group and may even have an orthopedic trauma surface.  The body is depleted, on set muscle soreness may be at a painful level, weakness is is felt, lack of motivation and even cortisol levels will increase.  Chronic overtraining also presents itself with muscle weakness and an overuse injury can occur (i.e. tendenitis).  The body experiences weakness, there may be a parasympathetic response and cortisol levels will also increase.
If you are not sure about symptoms here is a list of sympathetic and parasympathetic signs of overtraining (from the Journal of Applied Sports Science Research 5:35-50, 1991).

Sympathetic Parasympathetic
  • Increased resting heart rate
  • Increased resting blood pressure
  • Decreased maximal power output
  • Decreased sports performance
  • Decreased maximal blood lactate concentrations
  • Slower recovery after exercise
  • Weight loss
  • Decreased appetite
  • Decreased desire to exercise
  • Increased irritability and depression
  • Increased incidence of injury
  • Increased incidence of infection
  • Decreased resting heart rate
  • Faster return of heart rate to resting value after exercise
  • Decreased sports performance
  • Decreased blood lactate concentrations during submaximal and maximal exercise
  • Unemotional behavior

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