Have you ever trained at maximum intensity every session for the last few months, ate perfectly and rested what you thought was enough but still felt weak, tired and unfit with high body fat levels? If this describes you then you are overtraining.
The bottom line in sports conditioning and fitness training is stress, not mental stress, but adaptive body stress. Athletes must put their bodies under a certain amount of stress to increase physical capabilities. Where the stress loads are appropriate then the athlete's performance will improve but if the stress loads are inappropriate then a state of over-training/burnout could come about for the athlete.
Signs of Over-training:
Symptoms indicating over exertion can be classified in the following way:
Movement coordination symptoms:
-Increased incidence of disturbances in movement (the re-appearance of faults that seemed to have been overcome, cramp, inhibitions, insecurity)
-Disturbances in rhythm and flow of movement
-Lack of ability to concentrate
-Reduced power of differentiation and correction
-Diminished powers of endurance, strength, speed. Increase in recovery time, loss of 'sparkle' (competitive qualities)
-Reduced readiness for action, fear of competition, giving-up in face of difficult situations, especially at the finish
-Confusion in competition, departure from usual tactics
-Susceptibility to demoralising influences before and during competition
-Increasing tendency to abandon the struggle
-Increased irritability, obstinacy, tendency to hysteria, grumbling, defiance, increased quarrelsomeness, avoidance of contact with coach and colleagues
-Over sensitivity to criticism, or increasing indolence, poor incentive, dullness, hallucination, anxiety, depression, melancholy, insecurity
Close observation can help eliminate the possibility of serious effects of over-stressing. As soon as symptoms are noticed, loading should be reduced and recovery pursued. All performance checks and competition pressures must be removed and active recovery put in their place. If you do what you’ve always done then you’ll get what you’ve always got. As human beings, we are conditioned to fear change but without change, we will never grow. This is the same within resistance training. If you don’t change your habits and behaviour, not only will homeostasis (please read previous homeostasis article) kick in so your body adapts which will halt progress but you will never improve because your habits and behaviour will be the same day in, day out.
People are forever saying that practice makes perfect but I couldn’t disagree more. Practice with perfect knowledge of results makes perfect. Anyone can practice something a million times but if they are doing it the wrong way then they will never reach the state of ultimate mastery. Think of it like playing the piano. You can play the piano all day every day and learn the most difficult songs ever written but if the piano has not been tuned properly then it will never sound as it should.
Knowing your body and knowing its physical limitations will enable you to be the best athlete you can be. Never take advice from someone else on over-training because everyone’s body is different. Some people can train twice a day for 6 days a week and never overtrain but others only need to train for 4 sessions a week at 1 hour at a time before they reach a state of complete exhaustion.
It is possible to categorise certain factors which cause overtraining, if permitted to accumulate, which will bring about a state of over-training. They are as follows:
-Recovery is neglected (mistakes in the build-up of training cycles, inadequate use of general exercise sessions for recovery)
-Inappropriate increase in frequency of training or extent of loading or density of loading
-Demands are increased too quickly, so that adaptation cannot be consolidated
-Too rapid increase of loading after forced breaks (injuries, illness)
-Too great an extent of loadings of maximum and sub-maximum intensity
-Too high an intensity of duration loadings in endurance training
-Excessive and forced technical schooling in complicated courses of movement without adequate recovery
-Excess of competitions with maximum demands, combined with frequent disturbance of the daily routine and insufficient training
-Excessive bias of training methods and units
Further to the above, there are also many factors that reduce performance. Some of these are:
-Inadequate sleep, irregular routine by day
-Use of alcohol and nicotine
-Excess of caffeine
-Bad living conditions (noise, overcrowding, inadequate light, etc.)
-Over stimulating company
-Lack of free time or inability to make good use of free time (no relaxation)
-Nutritional deficiencies (lack of vitamins)
-Rush and hurry
-Frequent necessity to adjust body-weight
-Taking on more stresses when already at capacity
-Over burdening with family duties
-Tensions within family (parents, husband, wife)
-Difficulties in personal relationships
-Dissatisfaction with career, studies, school
-Bad assessment and marks in school, in studies, etc.
-Conflict of attitudes to sport (family, superiors)
-Excess of stimuli (TV, cinema)
-Increased burden in one area of environment (e.g. final exams, A levels)
-Feverish colds, stomach or intestinal upset
-After effect of infectious illness
As you can see, there are many contributing factors to over training and most of them actually have nothing to do with the frequency or amount of time that you are in the gym. You will only make regular and steady progress once you have created the perfect condition for you to grow. Think of a plant, without the correct conditions, photosynthesis cannot take place and the plant will die. Your body is very similar, if you place large amounts of stress on your body in every area of your life then how can you ever expect your body to perform at optimum level? How often do you see these guys in the gym who train hard all week then go out drinking alcohol, taking drugs, eating bad food and deprive themselves of sleep all weekend then complain that they never see the same gains as the guy who stays in all weekend, sleeps plenty and sticks to his diet? They are simply undoing all of the hard work they attempt to create during the week. Think of life as a percentage, if I spent 90% of my time sticking to the plan and you spend 60% then I have an advantage of 30%. It’s a pretty simple principle when you really think about it.
I guess by now you are probably wondering how and why you can and should avoid over training!? To simplify things a little, you need to take control of your life and have a clear understanding of your actions and decisions. The more control you have over these then the more you can implement the necessary changes to avoid overtraining. Some like to keep a log or diary, I prefer to develop a routine that fits around daily life. That way its easy to memorise and becomes second nature after a while. It is then simply a process of elimination because if I feel I am overtraining, I simply eliminate any negativity or stress indicators that may be causing the overtraining or fatigue. For example, if on a Wednesday I have a late night which leads to me feeling exhausted all day on Thursday, I will simply miss training and train on Friday instead because I wouldn’t want to lower the intensity of my workout by 40% just because I feel tired and lathargic.
You should always remember that you are most vulnerable when you create a weak environment / state of mind so by eliminating this risk factor and resting, you assist your body in making the necessary changes to function at optimim level again. Always try to recognise the warning signs of overtraining, its important to objectively measure your training routine and make adjustments before you wind up sick or injured.
Sponsored Athlete – BodyBuilding Warehouse