Overtraining syndrome most often occurs in athletes who are training for competition or a specific event and train beyond the body's ability to recover.
Your sports season is starting in a few months and it’s time to start training. You want to be in the best condition possible when the first day of practice comes. Most student athletes often throw themselves head-first into their conditioning. After all, isn’t every athlete’s mantra “No pain, no gain”? If you’re not careful this could result in “overtraining syndrome” – more commonly known as “burnout” or “staleness”.
Without a sufficient recovery period after a hard workout the muscles, bones and joints can become too stressed. Of course, some tiredness and a decrease in athletic performance are to be expected after a particularly hard workout. But if, after a few days off or lighter workouts, you find that you’re still feeling fatigued and sore and your athletic ability seems to have “hit a wall”, you might be suffering from overtraining syndrome.
There are several symptoms of overtraining syndrome. The most common symptom is fatigue, accompanied by persistent soreness in the muscles and an increased number of injuries and viral illnesses.
You may also feel easily irritated, have trouble sleeping, become depressed, or even lose the desire to play and compete in your sport. It may be hard for you to distinguish between the average results of a hard workout and overtraining syndrome.
Treatment is fairly simple – rest. The longer you have over-trained, the more rest you will need to recover. That’s why it is important to recognize when you are pushing your body too hard. With early detection, or even prevention, you can avoid the need for a prolonged period of rest. Physicians recommend stopping training for 3-5 days if overtraining has only taken place for a few weeks. After the appropriate rest you may resume training every other day. You should maintain intensity, but workout less. You may increase your workouts until you have reached previously established volume. Severe cases should consult a physician.
The best thing, of course, is to prevent overtraining syndrome from occurring in the first place. Vary your routines so that your muscles have the chance to adapt to the demands. Even if you do find a program that seems particularly successful you need to carefully monitor the length of that program or overtraining could result.
Overtraining syndrome is a very real problem....but one that can easily be avoided if you listen to what your body is telling you and carefully monitor the demands that you place upon your body during conditioning.
"The Rest of the Story" Training and Conditioning Magazine
Mark Jenkins MD, The Overtraining Syndrome, SportsMedWeb, Rice University
Test to pinpoint signs of overtraining
Physiology of sport and exercise