Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Overtraining occurs when athletes go beyond their training regiments and do not allow enough time for the body to recover. This can damage muscles, tendons, and ligaments and even have a mental effect on the athlete. There are also cases when athletes become ill right before their major event due to overtraining. This is often caused by athletes who are already at their capacity training too hard in an effort to feel as though they’ve achieved their full training potential and thus depleting their reserves and compromising their immune systems.

One general principle known to all elite athletes and coaches training for major events is overload training. Athletes train for long hours and at high intensities. Overload is usually followed by a taper for recovery. However, when an athlete uses all they’ve got but still try to give more without the proper taper, the athlete will have depleted all their resources and become fatigued. If overload has gone wrong, this depletion does not help performance and may actually cause it to drop. Overtraining has occurred.

Overreaching is often a term heard in the context of overtraining. Overreaching is seen as short-term overtraining and refers to training that involves a brief period of overload, with inadequate recovery, that exceeds the athlete’s adaptive capacity. It is often debated whether overreaching is a normal part of training, however, monitoring this kind of training in order for the positive results to come out as opposed to the potential damaging results of burnout becomes the key factor.

Beyond the physical impacts of overtraining such as illness and injury, some of the risks of overtraining include guilt about not working hard enough, disruption of sleep, anxiety/stress, feelings of fatigue, burnout and maladaptive responses to poor performance.The problem here is discerning whether these are short-term effects of intense training or long-term effects of overtraining.

Athletes who are susceptible to overtraining can show the following characteristics, behaviours and attitudes
  • Extreme perfectionist, extremely strong athletic identity
  • Lack of knowledge or awareness regarding the importance of recovery
  • Unrealistic expectations
The best way to prevent overtraining is to get rid of the notion that more is always better. Once an athlete has completed his training exercise the most simple and recommended part of the cycle is rest.

Source from the SIRC Collection:
Richardson, Sean O., Andersen, Mark B., and Morris, Tony. Overtraining Athletes: Personal Journeys in Sport. Champaign, Ill.: Human Kinetics Publishers; c2008.

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