In college our cross country coach would often tell us to run an easy 60 minutes on Sundays after our Saturday races. The temptation to run further, just to see how long I could go, was too much and I’d often be out there for 2 hours (not to mention a few times I got lost and was frantically trying to find my way back to anything that looked remotely familiar). Ten hill repeats turned into 15 or 20 and taking a rest day meant cross training. My quest to become better and love of training meant I put in “junk miles” – miles that probably didn’t help me race faster and could have actually hampered my recovery and therefore my performance.
Athletes must learn to walk the fine line between training enough to facilitate improvement while not doing too much. In addition to the sheer stress on a person’s body, practice, games, races and time in the weight room all require mental energy as well.
Overtraining can present itself in a variety of ways but there are two main type:
Overreaching: Acute overuse
Acute overuse is the most common type of overtraining. It causes short term drops in athletic performance which may last days or weeks. Symptoms range from muscle pain to a more serious condition – rhabdomyolysis, severe muscle damage which can lead to kidney failure and even death.
Overtraining: Chronic overuse
Chronic overuse is associated with longer term drops in performance which may never be restored.
How can you distinguish training to gain (better performance) from overtraining? Here are several common signs and symptoms:
- Increased heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
- Loss of appetite
- Decreased body mass
- Problems sleeping
- Emotional instability
- Early onset fatigue
- Decreased resting heart rate
- Decreased blood pressure
Currently there is no perfect test, equipment, or methodology that can predict overtraining or create an optimal workout. Athletes must know the early signs and symptoms of overtraining, understand the way their body reacts to training, conduct appropriate nutrition practices to ensure recovery, properly deal with stress, and adjust based on results.