Are you overtrained?

Commonly athletes think that the ‘more is better’ when training for increased sports performance. The question that really needs to be asked is ‘what is it that I need to do more of’ and ‘am I doing too much’!

If training with the ‘more is better’ philosophy, it will inevitably lead to a decrease in performance. Eventually the athlete will over step their natural limit and a reduction in performance will occur. This reduction of performance is called ‘over-training’ or ‘burn-out’.

Whilst training, the athlete should aim to stress the body to attain the response of positive adaptation. Positive adaptation occurs before ‘over-training’ and is the aim of all training programmes and is called ‘over-reaching’. Positive adaptation to over-reaching is where the body is stressed enough, given enough rest and allowed to naturally compensate for the strain of training. This positive adaptation will then enable the athlete to increase their performance.

If the athlete does not have the correct rest then they will train themselves into an over-trained state. Symptoms of over-training are

  • Impaired performance
  • Lack of adaptation to training
  • Fatigue, depression, apathy, restlessness and irritability
  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Constant weight
  • Change in resting heart rate
  • Change in resting blood pressure
  • Reduced/increased heart rate during exercise
  • Suppressed heart rate-exercise profile
  • Suppressed glucose-exercise profile
  • Suppressed lactate-exercise profile
  • Suppressed neuromuscular excitability
  • Suppressed sympathetic intrinsic activity
  • Suppressed catecholamine sensitivity
  • Altered hypothalmic/pituitary/adrenal/gonadal function
  • Retarded recovery after exercise

Athletes should be aware that these changes are the early warning signs of over-training. If any of the above symptoms occur, athletes should aim to reduce their training until the symptoms have returned to normal. Then training may resume at a reduced intensity and increases at a level that allows for over-reaching to occur.

Common mistakes that most athletes make in training that lead to over-training and should be eradicated from training are:

  • Training is too intensive though-out the training year
  • Inadequate muscle glycogen regeneration through incorrect feeding.
  • Underestimation of work stress and effect on riding.
  • Periodisation is not used, creating the same fitness level.
  • Lack of rest leading to over-training.
  • Large increases in training that over-stresses the body and leads to over-training.
  • Training through infection and illness.
  • Lack of strength and strength endurance in the training year.
  • Low intake of energy and nutrients.
  • The same training year-round.

Dan Bennett

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