Are you on the Verge of Overtraining

Are we trying to achieve too much? While striving for perfection, we can demand more than our body can deliver.
The single most important reason runners are prone to overtraining is lacking the ability to make an objective assessment of our ultimate performance capabilities. I suppose we won’t accept we are mortal and that we have a built-in performance range beyond which training and other interventions cannot take us.
We believe that the harder we train, the faster we will run and we ignore the evidence that indicates that this is untrue.

Overtraining first leads to an impaired exercise capacity and is followed by a predictable range of medical and other complaints. Recovery occurs rapidly in those who wisely chose to rest as soon as any of the symptoms develop. Don’t continue to over train for months or years and risk developing a more serious condition.

Over trained runners find that while their minds are ready to run, their bodies would much rather be asleep in bed. The more their minds force them to train, the more their bodies resist until during a race, their bodies have the final say!!

Overtraining represents the most extreme example in which the central governor is maximally activated to ensure that we cannot exercise anymore and thus cause further damage.
In some runners, the first signs of overtraining are generalized fatigue, recurrent headaches, weight loss, loss of appetite for food or work, difficulty sleeping, early waking, inability to relax, worsening allergies, increased susceptibility to colds or flu, respiratory infections. All fail to understand why even though they are training hard, their race performances continue to deteriorate.
These runners have stretched their bodies beyond their individual breaking points.
Factors other than training alone can be involved.

Once athletes are even mildly over trained, they are already past peak condition and the only way to save the situation is to stop training immediately until the body is rested and the desire to return to run and compete again returns.

We lack the ability to make an objective assessment of our ultimate performance capabilities.
We believe that the harder we train, the faster we will run, and we ignore the evidence that indicates this is untrue. What do we do then? We train harder and run worse and then? We interpret our poor races as an indication that we have undertrained.
Consequently, we go out and train even harder.

The syndrome typically develops in one of 2 ways

1. Training very intensively for a protracted period or
2. Running a series of races in short succession, also following a period of intensive training.

Other important factors include inadequate recovery between days of intensive training and training monotony.
The combination of high training load with a monotonous training schedule is more likely to induce over training. Monotony creates a lack of mental and physical stimulus from which to adapt off of.  Instead of falling into your same pattern of training, introduce something new. Do a different workout type, go to different training venue, get out of the habit of having a set cycle and instead create modulation.

Don’t let your training progress from over reaching (generalized fatigue) to over training.
As long as your training performance is stable or improving, feeling tired does not in itself mean that you are doing too much!
Waking up tired and going to bed even more tired— clear signs of overtraining. Key to diagnosing overtraining is knowing when fatigue at either end of the day has become excessive.

Does your normal comfortable pace leave you breathless?
Do your legs feel heavy for far longer than usual after a hard workout or race?
Do you find it especially hard to climb up steps?
Do you dread the thought of training?
Do you have a persistent lack if appetite?
Are you more susceptible to colds, flu, headache or infections?
Is your resting heart rate persistently 5 to 10 beats higher than usual (reflects heightened activity of the sympathetic nervous system, reflecting the increased stress on the body and inadequate recovery?
Is your heart rate during exercise higher than normal?
Are there changes in your sleeping pattern.?

Without adequate rest periods, continued training at high intensities or load will cause and athlete to develop overtraining syndrome.
First signs is a fall in training performance.-Inability to produce your best when you are apparently in good form is the first sign of incipient sharpness.
Athletes who do not carefully monitor their training performances will never spot this subtle indicator. By comparing performances in identical workouts over the years, you can tell what physical condition you are in and as a result you will know what training is still needed to be done to produce your peak performance on the day that really mattered.

Monitoring your level of fatigue and resistance to stress of fast running should be done on the basis of heart rate and level of effort required to produce that performance. Some will argue that there is no need to measure by heart rate!!
If you have to run harder at a higher heart rate to achieve the same time, you have been training too hard. The body needs a period of rest and reduced training in order to do its best

Emotional and Behavioural Changes
*Loss of enthusiasm and drive-I don’t care attitude
*Desire to quit during a race
*Lethargy; listlessness; tiredness
*Inability to concentrate at work
*Impaired academic performance
*Changes in sleep patterns particularly insomnia
*Loss of appetite
*Poor coordination
*Feeling thirsty, Increased this intake at night,
*Easily irritated, anxious, unable to relax

Physical Changes
*Impaired physical performance, in particular, inability to complete routine training sessions
*Gradual Loss of weight
*Persistent increase in early morning heart rate of more than 5 beats per minute
*Abnormal rise in heart rate upon standing and during and after a standard workout
*Slower recovery in heart rate after exertion
*Postural hypotension
*Heavy leggedness, sluggishness that persists for more than 24hrs after a workout.
*Persistent muscle soreness that increases from session to session
*Swelling of lymph glands
*Increased susceptibility to infection, allergies, headaches and injury
*Loss of menstruation

Besides alterations in training and racing performances, the most effective predictors of the development of overtraining syndrome are measures of psychological state and training load.

4 best markers for monitoring overtraining are:
1. Performance on standard exercise tests
2. Self-analysis of well-being by the athlete
3. Profile of mood state
4. Sub maximal, maximal and post exercise recovery rates for heart rate, oxygen uptake and blood lactate concentrations.

Rate of perceived exertion (RPE) scale is a very valuable metric-Perception of effort (internal load) is a great predictor of performance and injury as it is sensitive to changes outside ie stress, sleep, personal issues. Respiratory frequency is strongly correlated with perception of effort.

How about tracking a range of other things on a 1-5 scale like:

*Mental exertion of Workout (MPE)

*Stress Level

*Energy Level


*POP-muscle tension (springiness/how the legs feel)

*Sleep hours/quality

*Overall performance (1-3 simple scale,  below average, average, above average0

Overtraining also affects brain function – the ability of the motors centre in the brain to activate enough muscle fibres in the active muscles during exercise. This acts as a protective mechanism by preventing us from continuing to train when in an overtrained state to prevent further damage. The sensory feedback from damaged muscles stimulates the central governor to ensure that only a small muscle mass is recruited during exercise.
Also the central governor stimulates other brain centres so that even mild exercise is perceived as being more strenuous than it really is.
Feelings of abnormal fatigue are the brains way of telling you to rest because you have already done too much.

We runners must learn to respect the messages that our bodies give us, especially if the message is that we have already done too much.
We need to appreciate the true nature of the human body which is fragile even though it can be trained to achieve remarkable feats. Training beyond your limit produces progressively poorer performances leading ultimately to overtraining.

Take a long-term view to running, your goal should be a progressive but gradual improvement.
Training should not always be of the same intensity and duration week in week out. You will progress best when you allow a suitable recovery period after each hard training session.

The race doesn’t go to the athlete who has suffered most in training but who trained smarter. To be good you need to train hard at a high-level but you must also allow your body time to recover, take some time off, run your easy runs a bit easier.
Reset, restore the balance of stress and recover, make your resilient to over training.
Be strong and courageous enough to hold back just enough to keep from reaching into the unwanted zone of overtraining.
Training is simple-stress-recover-adaptation
If there isn’t adequate recovery, then adaptations won’t take place and what’s it all for then?

Watch out for the warning signs
Don’t let training and racing greed reduce you to the walking wounded.


overtraining 2

Michelle Greaney

FB: MG Coaching


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