Over Training

Over Training

Over training

The ultimate goal of training for athletic performance is improved performance. Training requires systematic increases in exercise stress to overload the system and promote adaptation to the stressor. In order for adaptation to take place, the system under stress must be allowed to rest to permit full recovery and adaptation. Self-trained athletes often perceive that training is more important than rest, and therefore ignore proper recovery cycles in their periodized plans, if they have one at all. Improper rest doesn’t allow full recovery and adaptation, and therefore performance may plateau or decrease. In response to this lack of improvement in performance, they may increase training load, when in reality they need more time to recover and adapt. A situation can then develop where the self-trained athlete increases training to increase performance, forgoing proper rest cycles in lieu of more training. This can lead to a condition generally referred to as overtraining, which is an imbalance between training and recovery. The athlete enters a state of failing adaptation characterized by fatigue and on recovery from the training stimulus.

There are two kinds of overtraining generally referred to in the literature. These include overreaching and the overtraining syndrome. Overreaching is short term overtraining that is characterized by training fatigue, reduced maximal performance capacity, and decrease competitive ability. The prognosis for recovery from over training is good, as the condition is usually reversed with an extended recovery of one to two weeks, resulting in super compensation and increased performance capacity. The overtraining syndrome is more serious than overreaching and recovery usually takes weeks or months of complete training abstinence. The overtraining syndrome or staleness is characterized by a myriad of potential symptoms, including changes in mood state, decreased maximal performance capacity, fatigue, lethargy, and competitive incompetence. Due to the long period of rest needed for the athlete to recover from the overtraining syndrome, detraining may occur, resulting in decreased potential performance capacity compared to before the athlete entered an overtrained state.

The overtraining syndrome has also been divided into forms based on the symptoms observed. Sympathetic overtraining is usually found in sports consisting of short, explosive events such as sprinting, jumping, and implement throwing. The symptoms observed in this form of overtraining are characterized by a predominance of the sympathetic nervous system. These include restlessness and excitability; disturbed sleep patterns, weight loss, increased resting heart rate, decreased performance and fatigue. Parasympathetic overtraining is generally found in endurance activities such as road and mountain cycling, long distance running, and triathlons. The parasympathetic nervous system predominates in this type of overtraining with symptoms including depression or lethargy, normal sleeping patterns, normal weight, and decreased resting heart rate.

Prevention is critical to avoid overtraining because once a member enters an overtrained state, complete rest for weeks to several months may be required to recover. Monitoring your response to training through proper Periodization and routine performance tests is a necessary part of any training schedule. Unfortunately, determining the early stages of overtraining is still an art. Even if decreases in performance are observed and overtraining is suspected, there is no clear indicator of overtraining that can be tested to determine if you are entering an overtraining state. Research is under way to try to elucidate parameters that could be used to screen athletes for overtraining. IF various markers of overtraining were found to be at crucial levels indicating that you are overtraining, the coach could advise the athlete to take several days off in order to allow full recovery and super compensation.

In the past, coaches have used an increase in resting heart rate as one variable to determine if their athletes were entering an overtraining state. However, there is no data in the overtraining literature to suggest that resting heart rate will increase when subjects are becoming overtrainined. Several studies have found no change in resting heart rate, while another has found decrease resting hear rate during a period of increased training volume and intensity to try and promote the over trained state. Additionally, body weight often does not change during overtraining, and is not a suitable marker for overtraining. Mood state and motivation, while difficult to measure, may be a useful tool for gauging if you are entering an overtraining state. However, mood state and motivation by themselves are not conclusive enough to diagnose overtraining.

Unfortunately, there is not a good marker of overtraining yet agreed upon in the overtraining literature that can be used to screen members. The best way to determine if a member is entering an overtraining state is to frequently perform sport specific tests and compare times throughout the season. If performance decreases despite an adequate training stimulus, proper nutrition, and most importantly, adequate rest, then it is likely that the member may be entering an overtraining state. It is ideal to catch the development of overtraining early, so that rest can be prescribed and the member can super compensate before so much rest is required that the member detrains and loses fitness.