Rigorous workouts break down body tissues and cause cellular damage/microtrauma. If microtrauma cumulates from ongoing bouts of training, it could lead to overreaching (light form of overtraining) and eventually to overtraining syndrome which is the most severe form of overtraining. Overtraining syndrome represents the apex of training and non-training stressors tearing down the body at a rate faster than it can rejuvenate itself.
Warning Signs Of Overdoing Fitness
Once the body reaches states of overtraining syndrome, undesirable physical, physiological, and emotional changes usually take place. Unfortunately, there is no sure-fire test to determine when trainees are severly overtraining, but listed below are warning signs that trainees might experience before or during overtraining syndrome:
- General aches and pains
- Decreased performance
- Reduced training capacity
- Loss of lean body weight
- Increased injuries
- Compulsive need to train
- Decreased appetite
- Poor concentration
Exercising To Much And The Costs On The Body
When overtrained anaerobic exercisers like weight lifters usually experience sympathetic symptoms. Aerobic exercisers such as joggers usually have parasympathetic symptoms. Generally, the sympathetic symptons speed up bodily processes while parasympathetic symptoms slow processes. The sympathetic and parasympathetic systems constitute the body’s autonomic nervous system, which acts on blood vessels, glands and internal organs within the body.
Trainees experiencing sympathetic overtaining symptoms may have an increased resting heart rate, blood pressure cortisol and/or triglyceride levels whereas victims of parasympathetic overtraining may experience decreased resting heart rate, blood pressure and/or body temperature.
Some experts contend that sympathetic overtraining is far worse because of how the body inherently uses its own functioning capacity to force performance at levels higher than can be safely managed, thereby making the body more susceptible to serious injury.
Strategies To Avoid Exercise Burnout
Most dedicated trainees and athletes will experience overtraining at some point in their careers unless preventative measures are taken. According to exercise physiologist Elizabeth Quinn, “Overtraining syndrome is easily preventable. Unfortunately, athletes wait too long before realizing it’s time to do something.”
There is no need to avoid exercise altogether for the fear of overtraining. Small amounts of microtrauma resulting from exercise stress is not problematic. Problems start when too much microtrauma occurs without proper recovery. Therefore, the key to preventing overtraining syndrome is found in disallowing cellular damage to cumulate over time in the first place. Progressive training must emphasize a medium between training and recuperation.
The best way to achieve this medium is cycling one’s training by alternating easy, moderate and hard workouts—a process called periodization. Keep in mind there are different periodization formats and no one type is universally best for all trainees. Each person’s requirements differ.
Variables such as sets, reps, time between sets, movement between sets, duration, volume and intensity can be manipulated through periodization. The basic structure of periodization consists of macro-cycles (entire training periods), meso-cycles (sequences within macro-cycles) and micro-cycles (cycles of work in meso-cycles). When creating the appropriate periodized program, it is also helpful to condider the trainee’s ability, fitness level, motivation and goals.
Periodization principles work for competitive athletes and fitness enthusiasts alike. It helps maximize muscular endurance, strength, power, motor performance and muscular hypertrophy in minimal time while reducing incurrences of overtraining.
In addition to periodization, trainees can take advantage of many healthful strategies available to combat overreaching and overtraining syndrome:
- Aspirin prior to training (improves circulation—always obtain medical clearance before taking medications)
- Leg elevation (improves circulation)
- Peripheral Heart Action Training (alternating successive lower and upper body exercises to improve circulation)
- Contrast showers (improves circulation)
- Cryokinetics (improves circulation)
- Alternative body therapies (massage, acupuncture, Chiropractic, etc.)
- Adequate sleep
- Sensible nutritional practices
- Proper supplementation
- Psychological techniques (visualization, meditation, etc.)
- Reducing unnescessary stressors in life
Trainees who incorporate comprehensive programs that are periodized and progressive have the best opportunity to remain on target. Overtraining is preventable when trainees use the tools at their disposal.