The Joyful Anthology

On Overtraining



Somewhere around six years ago, I experienced a really unpleasant period of my life where I had chronic fatigue syndrome along with adrenal fatigue. Both were a result of factors that came with the onset of neglecting the awareness that I was over-training.

In the spring of 2010, I had run the Boston marathon under a rigorous training schedule that perhaps was too much after already having run the NY marathon that fall, and not recovering enough afterwards. I ran the race feeling ill with a sinus infection as well as experiencing back pain and other muscular discomfort. Because I ran feeling awful and lacked proper recovery, I had escalating issues both with my immune system and my physical body resulting in bulging discs in my lumbar spine.

For several months, I was constantly fatigued despite rest. I had to refrain from almost all activity. Looking back, I wish I was aware of the early onset stages of my over-training and knew better to cut back to avoid the repercussions I wound up facing.

In athletes, over-training is associated with what’s known as “burnout,” which is chronic fatigue, over-stress, staleness, and the inability to recover properly, which is attributed to decreased performance. This leads to performance plateau due to the adaptation of the central nervous system from a lack of stimulation. What results is the body not repairing itself after all the hard work the athlete put into training. Quality of life will suffer with mood alterations, sleep disturbances, decreased libido, and definitely decreased performance in activity.

Here are the three stages of Over-training:

Stage 1

Diagnosing the early stages of over-training can be difficult. Pain may appear as slight as the lower back in a cyclist, ankle issues in a runner, or shoulder pain in a lifter. Injuries might start to increase and performances might start declining, although blood tests will come up showing normal ranges. There might be slight changes in gait, or feeling run down. This all fits into the first stage of over-training. Coaches should be mindful of these subtle changes and cut training back at the first stages of breakdown. If the proper measures are taken, great results can come from achieved with proper rest. Symptoms of first stages: -Increased vulnerability to knee, back, foot, or ankle injuries -Abnormal hormonal output, including changes in menstrual cycle for women -Mental stress, depression or anxiety Tips: With noticing these symptoms, manage other factors, such as diet, sleep, lifestyle, and creating a good balance to support training. Reduce training volume and intensity until you’re feeling your energetic self again and your body feels strong and healthy.

Stage 2
Mostly seen in athletes who perform higher volumes of anaerobic or strength work. These athletes have higher stressed lifestyle stress. Adrenal imbalance kicks adrenal into higher gears to cope with extra demands. This will result in restless, an overexcited state and lack of needing sleep. This results in high cortisol levels and increased insulin, which reduces fat burning and increased fat storage, as well as craving diets higher in carbs. When consuming a diet high in carbs under these circumstances, carbs will be stored as fat, not as potential energy, which further heightens the problem. By taking adequate measures of proper rest and restoration and improving diet changes, an athlete will get out of the “red zone” and back into optimal performance.

Stage 3

Chronic over-training can lead to serious brain muscle and metabolic imbalances. This stage is associated with the athlete being at his all time low. High-risk chronic diseases of the heart and blood vessels appear in an athlete in the third stage of over-training. Adrenal dysfunction are also apparent, as are significant hormonal decreases. The athlete’s performance is at all time low and he or she appears seriously unwell. This can take years to fix.



Tips for treating an athlete overtraining:

Seek a nutritionist familiar with your condition

Seek a fatigue specialist Check hormone levels

Create a sleep log

Build in rest days /naps if possible

Make sure your getting the proper nutrition and enough protein

Scale back from activity

Know your limits: other factors in lifestyle might be affecting your stress levels.

Log mood levels

Log immune system: how often you’re getting colds or feeling sick

Log how your body is feeling. Do you have muscle fatigue? Heavy legs?

Trade in your high demand activity for light restorative flexibility type workouts.

Practice energy balancing with Reiki Acupuncture for healing.

Practice tai chi for movement gaining energy.

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