So, you’re an athlete that loves training. You train hard and strive to be the best you can at your sport.
Then one day... You hit a wall.
This doesn’t compute with you. There isn’t a day of training you miss and you always train at high intensity until you’re exhausted.
But for some reason, you aren’t progressing, always tired, and feel sore.
The answer may be a little surprising, but you could be over-training.
What is over-training, how to avoid it, and how to recover from over-training?
Read on and find out!
Overtraining Syndrome: The Basics
The reason you have OTS (Overtraining Syndrome) is that you are making errors within your training and/or diet regimens.
It could be due to training too hard, not recovering properly, making poor nutrition choices, or a mixture of all these.
It may be frustrating to hear that you’re training too hard, but worry not:
There are easy remedies to fix this and get you back to training at an optimal level.
OTS: Know The Signs and Symptoms
Recognizing the signs of overtraining early will save you from continued low performance and risk of serious injury. Here are some of the most common symptoms of OTS:
• Fatigue. Having heavy arms or legs is a sensation you’re continually feeling. It always feels like your muscles are sore and giving a limited output of force.
• Decreased Performance. Your performance continues to decrease even though you always train at a high intensity.
• Insomnia. Feeling so tired, you have trouble falling asleep at night.
• Feeling Stress or Depression. Lack of progressing even when trying your hardest can sometimes lead to these psychological issues.
• Loss of Appetite. Not feeling the need or want to eat.
• Loss of Motivation. Not feeling the drive to perform in your sport as you once did.
• Lack of Energy. Not having enough energy to work out.
If you’re feeling more than one of these symptoms, then chances are you’re probably overtraining.
The good news?
Recognizing these symptoms early and addressing them will help get you out of this funk faster.
Overtraining VS Under-Recovery
There are some experts out there who believe in under-recovery and not overtraining.
There is a portion of the fitness community that actually believe overtraining doesn’t even exist.
They say that your training could be fine, but there could be errors you’re making in recovery that affect your progression. Experts like nutritionist Dr. Lauryn Lax (her thoughts here) believe that under-recovery might be to blame if your performance is decreased.
Overtraining Myths: Is Overtraining Real?
There are some things that make you question if overtraining is even real — like a marathon runner that runs hours a day.
If overtraining is real, how could it be possible to function putting in those grueling hours of training?
The real reason you feel overtrained and they don’t is because they’re managing these five factors for positive training:
1. Under Recovering
2. Work Capacity
4. Underlying Imbalances
OK, back to the point:
Whether you think overtraining is a myth or not isn’t even important now.
The important thing is to know there’s issues with your training and recovery methods that need to be altered.
Break Up Your Training
Do you do the same high-intensity exercises every day?
This error in training can lead to two major problems: stagnation and exhaustion.
Stagnation: If you do the same movements at the same intensity every day, then chances are your performance is not progressing. If you do the same exercises every day at the same pace, you won’t advance from your current state.
Exhaustion: If you go a 100% intensity in all workouts, your body will never recover. It can leave your muscles always struggling to recover.
Solutions can be as follows:
• Change Intensity. If you always feel exhausted after training it’s okay to pull back. Change the intensity of your workouts with how your body is feeling.
• Do Different Workouts. Doing different types of workouts can give parts of your body time to recover and make you a better athlete. A cardio athlete adding workouts doing functional movements with weights can feel better rested and perform better.
Drink More Water
As an athlete, if you’re not drinking enough water it not only diminishes your performance, but also your health.
You need to be drinking an appropriate amount of water each and every day. Dehydration and overtraining go hand in hand!
Different athletes from different sports need different amounts of water to sustain themselves each day. Not just for their sport, but in general to function in everyday life.
Remember these important things about hydration:
• You need to be drinking around half your bodyweight in ounces to function each day in general, adding more depending on the needs of your sport.
• Rehydrate. After training be sure to drink 16-24 ounces of water lost or you may continue to feel symptoms of exhaustion.
What Are You Eating?
Here's the deal:
If you’re underfed, overfed, or eat crappy it’s going to show when you train.
This could make you feel the effects of overtraining when dietary needs aren’t met.
Your dietary needs are going to depend on a few different things such as...
• Your Sport. The sport you train for requires certain numbers of calories and nutrients to perform at peak levels. Something high intensity like swimming will require more calories than baseball for instance.
• Your Body Type. Different bodies have different nutrient needs to function. Best to talk to your doctor / dietitian about this one.
• Special Needs. If you don’t pay attention to what you put in your body, you can be harming your health. A gluten intolerance you’re not aware of, for example, could be the culprit for your feelings of exhaustion.
The bottom line?
Fix your diet to meet the needs of your sport. Consult a nutritionist and learn what exactly your personal nutrition needs and intolerances are to construct a solid diet.
Get Some Sleep!
Are you getting enough sleep after those grueling training sessions?
If not, then you are doing yourself a disservice, because sleep is literally the most important thing you need when it comes to physical recovery.
Sleep is the time when your muscles heal and grow. It is vital for your advancement as an athlete to get this rest. Not getting enough sleep leads to lack of energy, function, and potential weight loss (or gain — depending on your goals and diet).
• Get 7-9 hours of sleep a night (maybe more if your workouts are intense)
• Manage your schedule to make it possible to get these hours of sleep in order to recover.
(If you’d like more information on the importance of sleep, check this link here.)
Do The Maintenance
To fight off those effects of overtraining/under-recovery, you must do the maintenance outside of training.
Athletes build up lactic acid in their muscles after hard training and need to take steps to remove it. They do various things to relieve stress from their body.
• Stretch/Yoga. Doing either of these methods will relax tight muscles, releasing lactic acid and increasing your flexibility
• Massages. Sometimes you need sore muscles worked on, so scheduling semi-frequent massages is an effective out of training strategy.
• Cryotherapy/Icing. In cold therapies, nutrients called cold-shock proteins are released heating up your muscles; they help remove lingering inflammation.
• Foam-Rolling. Implementing different methods of foam-rolling also helps remove lactic acid from muscles alleviating built-up stress.
To Wrap It All Up...
Training is important, but remember the things you do outside the gym are just as important.
Follow these tips and continue becoming the best athlete possible!