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Abilene Reporter-News (Texas)
There is endless discussion these days about overtraining. The term has become so popular that some athletes believe that if they feel even just a little tired or fatigued over the course of a regular training cycle, that they must be overtraining.
The reality is, however, that when you are training for an event, especially those that are competitive or involve multiple sports, fatigue is going to be a byproduct of your physical efforts. In fact, measured fatigue at certain times in a training cycle is a sign that your program is spot on track.
Purposeful training is all about getting the right type and right amount of physical stress, followed by the appropriate amount of rest. It is in this rest period when you recover, grow stronger and fitness adaptations occur. Proper training has a cumulative effect, and when done properly, will leave you feeling tired from time to time.
However, playing the devil's advocate, feeling fatigued can indeed be a sign of the onset of overtraining. If sufficient rest is not included in a training program, then regeneration cannot occur and your performance will inevitably plateau. I always tell my athletes that in order for their training to work, they must recover well, too. If this imbalance between excess training and inadequate rest persists, performance will eventually decline.
Overtraining is characterized by a collection of emotional, behavioral and physical symptoms also known as "burnout" or feeling "stale." This is different from the day-to-day variation in performance and post exercise tiredness that is common. Overtraining is marked by cumulative exhaustion that persists even after recovery periods.
The most common symptom is fatigue. This may limit workouts and may be present at rest. Athletes may also become moody, easily irritated, have altered sleep patterns, become depressed, or lose the competitive desire and enthusiasm for their sport. Some will report decreased appetite and weight loss. Physical symptoms include persistent muscular soreness, increased frequency of viral illnesses, increased incidence of injuries, and abnormal heart rates.
Signs of overtraining include the following:
- Changed sleep patterns
- Excessive muscle soreness
- Mental focus decreases & loss of motivation
- Altered appetite
- Frequent injury or illness
- Lack of physical energy (fatigue)
- Abnormal heart rate
The physical implications of this information are that after reaching a certain level of fatigue, it is critical that you allow your body to recover, either by rest or easy recovery workouts. Rather than dealing with the problem once it occurs, it behooves you to institute some basic measures in your daily life to prevent pitfalls before they begin.
Ways to avoid overtraining include:
- Develop a sound training program that works for you
- Follow your plan not your training or exercise partners
- Set goals
- Keep a training log
- Eat properly
- Sleep well
- Deal with non training stress (work, family, etc.)
- Stretch, ice, massage
- Get a physical and blood tests every six months
- Rest. Take a day off each week, or even a few if necessary
Angie Ferguson is an exercise physiologist from Fort Myers, Florida. She is a USA Triathlon Advanced Level 2 coach, Ironman Certified coach, Slowtwitch Certified coach, USA Cycling coach and has a Specialty in Sports Nutrition certification. For more training tips, read her blog at www.triathlontrainingisfun.com or contact her at www.geared up.biz.
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