One of my athletes came up to me complaining of generalized body ache since last 15- 20 days. He had symptoms of body ache, tiredness and said that he feels that he is not recovering well enough. When asked about his training history and schedule, it was evident that he was training too much and the strategies for recovery were inadequate. That is when I came to
know that he is overtraining. But what exactly is overtraining? Let’s find out!
The overtraining syndrome is a common cause of constant tiredness in athletes. It may have disastrous consequences for the elite sportsperson. The terms overtraining, overreaching, overtraining syndrome, burnout, staleness have all been used in association with this condition and needs to be clarified.
There is also a term called “overreaching” which describes similar symptoms but of a more short and temporary nature.
How does an overtraining syndrome develop?
A combination of excessive training load and inadequate recovery time results in short-term overtraining or overreaching. The overreaching is associated with impaired performance. If, at this stage, the athlete rests and has time to regenerate, the symptoms disappear and super- compensation may occur. Unfortunately, some athletes react to impaired performance by
increasing the intensity of their training. This leads to further impairment of performance, which may, in turn, result in the athlete increasing training other. A vicious cycle develops and leads to the overtraining syndrome.
Overreaching is often used by athletes during a typical training cycle to enhance performance. Intense training, in the short term, can result in a decline in performance; however, when incorporated with appropriate periods of recovery, a super-compensation effect may occur, with the sportsperson exhibiting an enhanced performance when compared
with the baseline level.
Other common causes of tiredness can be viral illness, nutritional deficiencies of iron, carbohydrates and protein content within the body.
How to know whether an overtraining syndrome has developed?
The initial symptom of the overtraining syndrome is usually fatigue (tiredness) but, with time, other symptoms develop.
Some of the symptoms used as indicators of overtraining include:
Decrease in the performance despite continued training
Cardiovascular changes, such as increased early morning heart rate or resting blood
Frequent illness, such as upper respiratory tract infection
Constant muscle soreness/ body aches
Loss of body mass
Lack of motivation
Loss of appetite/ eating desire
High self-reported stress levels
Irritability or depression.
Who are at risk?
Certain groups of athletes appear to be at an increased risk of developing the overtraining
An athlete new to a particular sport may train overzealously without proper knowledge of training.
A sports person who is achieving some initial success may be encouraged to train even harder.
An athlete may be led into overtraining by trying to train with better athlete.
It may also be dangerous to follow the training program of an established
"champion" whose training program may have been published in a magazine or on
The athlete who does not have a coach or training group to set training programs is far
more likely to over-train. The support of a sensible, experienced coach or trainer is the best means of maximizing performance and avoiding overtraining.
Potential triggers of overtraining syndrome
Increased training load without adequate recovery
Excessive number of competitions
Stressors including personal life (family, relationships) and occupational
High altitude exposure
Heat injury episode
This was an overview of overtraining syndrome. Hope you have got an useful insight about overtraining syndrome. In the next article I will be writing more about how to prevent yourself from overtraining!