Many athletes train too hard and too long. Overtraining takes place when muscles are not given the necessary recovery time. Everyone wants to be at their peak for a competition. Unfortunately the desire to improve often results in overtraining. When muscles do not get sufficient recovery time, they will not come back stronger--overtraining results in lowered performance, and too often leads to injury. The goal of any athlete's training is to be at peak performance on the day of the competition.
Athletes need to push to maximum ability in order to improve. However, when an athlete trains without allowing recovery time the muscles stay in a stressed condition. There must be a balance between a training effort and overtraining. When muscles are worked hard, they should be sore, that's normal. The line between overtraining syndrome and 100% effort is more subtle.
It's the rest period that brings your muscles back a little stronger than before the workout. If you workout too soon after a strenuous training session, your muscles will not have had sufficient recovery time. Repeating the cycle of training too often (before complete recovery) will result in overtraining.
Planning rest cycles into your training plan will help you prevent overtraining. During the rest period:
- eat carbohydrates
- get a full night's sleep
- drink plenty of fluids
- eat carbohydrates
Adequate rest cycles will help your body to fully recover glycogen storage in muscles and liver, and mitochondrial enzyme systems within the muscle cells. During the rest period these systems overcompensate for the workout, which (if you have sufficient rest) causes your muscles to increase strength. The recovery period is very important to avoid overtraining muscles.
Imagine if you had a cut on your skin and rubbed the cut or even broke it open everyday. You can see that this would take longer to heal. Muscles need to be allowed to heal too. The recovery time varies depending on the person and how intensive the workout was. If your muscles seem to stay sore, take a break from training.
Symptom of Overtraining: You need to be sensitive to the signs and symptoms of muscle overtraining. Some of the signs of overtraining:
- increased fatigue
- physically tired
- exercising often but not improving
- sore muscles do not go away
- tendons have pain when moved
- lower resistance to colds, sore throat
- anger easily; depressed
Overtraining Recovery: Working out to your maximum capacity during training. If your performance does not improve after a few days it may be an indicator of overtraining. Either add more recovery time in your training program or vary the muscle groups so each group gets sufficient rest. How long should you rest? This can vary depending on the person, the level of fatigue, diet, sleep. Try adding rest periods to your training plan.
Plan breaks in your training to allow for recovery. Recovery from sore muscles will take two to three days. A common misunderstanding is that a workout on sore muscles will speed recovery because it stimulates blood flow. This is only partially true. When you have sore muscles you should stimulate blood flow with a massage and stretching, but not with another workout. Working out with sore muscles leads to overtraining syndrome.
Solution...stop exercising, rest, drink fluids, eat carbohydrates to replenish glycogen in your muscles and liver. If you must continue to work out, use an alternate exercise routine so you are not working the same muscles. Check your resting heart rate...if your resting is 10% above your normal resting heart rate you are not ready to go back to training--continue resting.
You can avoid overtraining by following some simple steps: 1) stay in shape all year; 2) stretch and warm up before training; 3) program two or three day breaks into your training plan; 4) listen to your body. 5) relax your training a little if you notice the overtraining signs and symptoms.
Books about Overtraining: