THE SIGNS & SYMPTOMS OF OVERTRAINING

Women lying on the floor

Every athlete wants to be and do their best. But the challenge with being one’s best is that it is like walking along a cliff edge, in that we are constantly curious to look over yet can’t afford to fall.

Most athletes will be slightly better off underdone than overdone. Once it’s too late, and you’ve gone over that edge, it’s too late. However, we still need to satisfy our curiosity for exploring our full athletic potential and find where that individual line is.

Regardless of what goes on in one’s head, the reality remains that we only have one body, so we are better off looking after it. Over training can be just as bad as its opposite extreme, being a couch potato, when it comes to general health. Let’s explore why…

EXPLAINING OVERTRAINING

Overtraining is a term used to refer to when an athlete is constantly over-reaching and unable to recover from their training load or volume. Whilst it is necessary to push the limits of the body, it needs to be done in a structured and controlled manner, factoring in recovery sessions and strategies.

It can be hard to hold back sometimes, especially when we are feeling good, but the overall picture is always more important. Knowing when to back off is one of the best arrows we can have in our bow as athletes. It is just as much of a skill and an art as doing the training itself. Without it, we expose ourselves to fatigue – often chronic, a decline in performance, and a knock-on effect on the rest of our lives, affecting relationships as family and friends become concerned and can start to lose patience with the process.

Man setting

HOW TO KNOW WHEN TO HOLD BACK

If you are feeling as though your motivation levels are low, and you are usually a very motivated or enthusiastic person, especially when it comes to your sport, then you are most likely due for a rest. 

Fatigue is often expressed through lack of enjoyment for something we usually enjoy. Taking a well-deserved rest is more than enough to set you back on track. So don’t be afraid to scrap your plans for that four-hour ride if you simply are better off taking a rest that day. Once overtraining has become chronic, it requires more than just a few rest days to recover fully. The best thing you can do, is avoid getting to that stage and back off early.

In extreme cases, athletes will have to take full breaks for a year or two before being able to resume to their sport. Even in milder cases, months of reduced training is necessary to allow them to recover fully, from a mental and physical perspective. 

Mood really is one of the best indicators of how well you are looking after yourself.

Knowing when to back off is one of the best arrows we can have in our bow as athletes.

woman holding his knee

PHYSICAL EFFECTS of over-training:

  1. Decline in performance
  2. Musculoskeletal injuries
  3. Muscle breakdown / atrophy
  4. Poor sleep
  5. Higher resting heart rate and sometimes suppressed heart rate
  6. Lack of heart rate variability
  7. Weight loss or weight gain
  8. Fatigue
  9. Digestive difficulty

The digestive system is an excellent indicator of stress levels.

avocado and tofu in a bowl

PShychological EFFECTS of over-training:

  1. Loss of motivation
  2. Anxiety
  3. Depression
  4. Lack of enthusiasm
  5. Obsessive behaviour
  6. Impatience and unwillingness to spend time with family & friends
  7. Unable to fulfill daily tasks and commitments

Mood really is one of the best indicators of how well you are looking after yourself.

TOP 3 TIPS TO AVOID GETTING STUCK IN A RUTT

  1. Get your nutrition right. The digestive system is an excellent indicator of stress levels. It is commonly known that stress is experienced in the stomach and chronic issues such as IBS result from constant stress. Overtraining is a form of stress on the body and the mind, and therefore can lead to disrupted digestion. Keep your diet simple and make sure you are covering all the basics, by maintaining a balanced and not overly exclusive approach.

2. Have a good support network. Having those go to people who will be honest with you and hold you accountable to yourself is such a great way to keep you on track.

3. Prioritise sleep and learn to relax. Activities like reading or taking a bath or listening to music, writing, meditating or walking are all great ways to learn how to relax and be present. As athletes, we can sometimes be wired and have a tendency towards overthinking. These are all perfect ways to learn to switch off and take that much needed rest, especially after we have put the body through its paces.

man holding his back

HOW NUTRITION CAN HELP

Inn endurance sport a chronic calorie deficit can occur due to over-training or under-eating and it will have negative effects on your performance and life in general. You simply won’t last, regardless of how much training you are putting in. Similarly, there is no need to overdo it on the food front either, so it is simply about using trial and error to find out what works for you and what you need to recover optimally.

Be honest with yourself and aim to be as objective as possible when trying out different formulae. If this is an area that is difficult for you to look at objectively, seek the advice of a Sports Dietician or Nutritionist. Keep your diet as consistent and varied as possible so that your digestive system remains robust but efficient at the same time. Remember too that maintaining a healthy gut is key in absorbing nutrients, which are then transported around the body and are optimal for recovery. ‘Eating is cheating’ couldn’t be further from the truth and you can only expect to get out of your body what you put in.

Keep your diet as consistent and varied as possible so that your digestive system remains robust but efficient at the same time.

Remember too that maintaining a healthy gut is key in absorbing nutrients, which are then transported around the body and are optimal for recovery.

Try adding our Bindi Digest Blend to maintain a healthy gut and help the body handle the high nutritional demands we also place on it, by choosing to exercise or train heavily.

digest blend

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

natasha-bio

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