During my training sessions for competitive full-contact karate tournaments, and indeed amongst many of my peers in other sports, there was always the feeling of the need to train longer and harder to see improvements. This lead to training days that felt flat, heavy and tiring, resulting in a circular battle of wanting to train harder, because performance in a previous session was sub-optimal; from there we start to see Overtraining Syndrome occuring. However, as I wrote in an earlier article, without adequate rest and recovery, these training schedules can boomerang, and decrease performance.
Conditioning requires a balance between overload and recovery. Although the adage of what doesn’t challenge, doesn’t change you hangs true, it’s worth noting and understanding how much overload and/ or too little recovery may well result in both physical and psychology symptoms of Overtraining Syndrome.
So What Are The Common Signs and Symptoms of Overtraining Syndrome?
Do any of the following sound familiar or resonate with you?
Washed-out feeling, tired, drained, lack of energy
Mild leg soreness, general aches and pains
Pain in muscles and joints
Decreased immunity i.e. sore throat, getting or unable to shake a cold
Sudden drop in performance
Decrease in training capacity / intensity
Increased incidence of injuries; muscle strains, fractures, tendinitis.
Moodiness and irritability
Loss of enthusiasm for the sport
How Do You Know You’re Heading Into Overtraining?
The simplest way of knowing whether you're overtraining is by monitoring your heart rate:
As soon as you wake in the morning take your pulse to obtain your resting heart rate (RHR) in beats per minute (bpm). Record this number.
Repeat this process each morning. Try to keep this at a similar time each day.
Add this simple practice to your daily routine to ensure you’re training optimally and recovering well between workouts.
What to do with your RHR?
Short term, in the two or three days after a hard workout, if your RHR is significantly elevated from its normal average (7 or more beats per minute), that’s likely a sign you’re not fully recovered. Your daily heart rate is likely to vary regardless of your recovery level – between 3-4bpm over your normal average on any given day is fine; anything 7 bpm higher than normal signifies excessive training fatigue.
Long term, if you notice your heart rate steadily increasing over a two to three-week period, it’s quite possible you’re overtraining or not scheduling enough recovery time between workouts. Consider taking on extra recovery days after a tough workout or a light week of training. You need to have the courage to rest.
Conversely, if you see your heart rate is slowly declining, it’s a fairly good indication your training programme is working and you’re getting fitter.
Tracking your morning heart rate data is an easy and effective method for monitoring fatigue, how well you’re adapting to workouts, and can help prevent long-term overtraining. Additionally, keeping a training log to include notes about how your feel each day can help you notice trends. It's important to listen to your body signals and rest when you feel tired.
Treating and Managing Overtraining
Here are some of my recommendations for staving off and managing overtraining.
Rest when rest is needed.
Research on Overtraining Syndrome shows build in rest days.New evidence also indicates low levels of exercise, active recovery and restorative work such as yoga or Pilates can really help speed recovery.
Get some sleep
As I’ve written in a previous article, rest and sleep are integral parts of training. Your body needs it to recover and replenish all systems. Aim for a steady, reasonable bedtime most nights. The longer the body rests the easier it is to return to a homeostatic state (hormonally and in nutrient levels)
Fuel up properly
Excessive workouts mean high calorie burn. Ensure your body has enough energy for hard workouts and every day activities by adding a little more, and the correct nutrition to your daily total.Trust me, its helps your body build and recover better.
Listen to your body
Although it can be difficult to predict overtraining as we all respond differently to certain training routines it is important to vary training through the year and schedule in significant rest time.Listen to your body.A small niggle may well be just that, but pay attention to warning signs and act accordingly.