Too much too soon ?
As athletes we all want to improve our performance and shave those vital seconds or even minutes off our 'PBs' (Personal Best)! The way to do this is to increase the intensity and frequency of training, and many amateur athletes believe that the harder and more often you train, the better!
What is overtraining?
Overtraining can be defined as that point where the training loads imposed on the body systems exceed the ability of those systems to recover and properly adapt to the loads imposed on them. In other words, things start to break down. Initially this may manifest itself as tiredness and perhaps a few more aches and pains, or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, after exercise than normal. This is a familiar experience to any athlete who has pushed hard in an event such as a Triathlon or Endurance Race, and with sufficient rest the body is usually able to recover from the stress of such an event. However, if we push our bodies consistently beyond the ability to adapt and recovery, more serious problems will begin to occur, for example:
Microtrauma or repetitive strain on the muscles, ligaments, tendons and bones which, if allowed to continue can lead to more serious injuries such as strains, tears and stress fractures.
Protein and vitamin deficiency as the body uses up vital nutrients faster than they can be replaced. This in turn can lead to faster breakdown in muscle tissue and increased fatigue.
Cortisol levels, also known as the 'stress hormone' are increased and this can weaken the immune system response, leaving the body more vulnerable to infections and illnesses.
If you have been experiencing symptoms such as increased muscle soreness, fatigue, niggling injuries, illnesses and infections, or psychological symptoms such as depression and lack of motivation to exercise or complete a workout, then these are indicators that you may be overtraining.
The consequences of ignoring these signs of overtraining could mean an extended period of time away from sport due to injury or illness and a significant reduction in sporting performance as a result of pushing too hard too soon. In serious cases, sporting careers can be ended permanently by serious injury and debilitating long term illnesses such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
So how can we prevent overtraining from occurring?
- A properly structured training programme with SMART goals, i.e., specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.
- Build in recovery and rest periods into your training programme
- Make sure you are getting the right nutrition before, during and after your workouts.
- Consider cross training to vary loads on the body systems.
- Don't ignore minor injuries. Rest and seek advice from a suitably qualified health professional.
How can Sports Podiatry help?
Sports Podiatrists are trained to recognise the signs and symptoms of overtraining and can help give treatment and advice on preventing injury, modifying the training programme to increase recovery and treating minor injuries before they become major injuries.
Overdoing it in training is a common pitfall that all athletes will experience at some point, and provided proper recovery measures are taken this is rarely a serious issue. Training intelligently and listening to your body is the secret to unlocking better performance and will result in less frustration, decreased risk of injury and more enjoyment in your chosen sport. After all, it's supposed to be fun!
Please note that the content in this blog is for information only and should not be followed or used as a treatment plan without consulting a qualified health professional first. All Podiatrists are registered with the Health and Care Professions Council and can be consulted directly without first seeing a doctor.
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