Overtraining results in a state of chronic physical and psychological fatigue that leads to a decline in performance and greater risk of injury. Overtraining can be an issue for all athletic types, but it is very common in endurance sports.
How does this happen? Doing a physical activity causes damage to the muscle tissues and joints, and depletes energy reserves. During the recuperation period, the body tries to regenerate and strengthen the muscles and joints. This process is called overcompensation and it makes the body stronger. In fact, for all sports, a rest period is essential because it improves the physical condition and restores energy. Overtraining has occurred when the body is no longer able to recover and rebuild muscle tissues after an intense workout. This can become a serious problem if the person is also suffering from a lack of sleep or unbalanced nutrition.
Signs or Symptoms
Overtraining results in different symptoms that are similar to those of depression, but they will vary from person to person. Here are a few signs to look out for:
- chronic fatigue;
- prolonged muscle pain;
- slower recuperation;
- loss of appetite and weight loss;
- cramps, heavy and tired legs;
- loss of motivation;
- change in menstrual cycles;
- insomnia or disrupted sleep;
- loss of libido;
- increased heart rate when at rest.
To confirm symptoms of overtraining, you should visit your doctor.
Overtraining leads to a dysfunctionality of the entire body and is not only caused by strength training workouts. In fact, there can be many different causes:
- excessive increase in intensity of your workout;
- high-level competitions back-to-back without enough rest in between;
- poor nutrition balance (deficiencies, dehydration, lack of energy intake);
- overwork or stress
- new environmental conditions (cold, heat);
- an unhealthy lifestyle;
- poor health.
The primary cause of overtraining for runners is an excessive volume of running sessions with rest periods that are too short or of poor quality.
What to Do if This Happens
The answer is very simple: total rest and a better diet. This period of rest allows your muscular and articular system to recover, your metabolism to rebalance and your stress levels to decrease; all of which can lead to renewed motivation.
Based on the overtraining diagnosis, the duration of the rest period may vary from a few days to many weeks. After this essential pause, the person may progressively return to training and continue to adopt a healthy lifestyle.
How to Avoid Overtraining
Prevention is still the best way to avoid falling into the trap of overtraining. It's important to know your limits and listen to your body. In order to prevent overtraining, pay attention to the following warning signs: fatigue, irritability, persistent muscle pain, headaches, lack of motivation.
- set realistic goals in terms of training volume, the intensity of your runs and the periods of rest in between;
- record and analyze your physical performance on a regular basis;
- use your stats to determine new reasonable goals to strive for;
- determine the effectiveness of your training with your doctor (effort test, electrocardiogram…);
- do not continue your running training if you are experiencing persistent muscle pain;
- regularly check your mental state (sleep quality, mood…);
- keep a training journal and take note of your heartrate at rest and during effort, your feelings, and fluctuations in your weight…).