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Over-Training Syndrome And Its Effects On Health

Updated: Jul 10, 2023

Over-Training Syndrome, simplified as OTS, is so often under-estimated by Athletes (and Amateurs), characterised as "just being tired".

The condition results in decreased long-term physical performance and can be accompanied by other physiological and psychological symptoms (such as bad mood or poor sleep). Extensive muscle soreness and non-healing injuries are also signs of overtraining. The signs and symptoms associated with this type of overtraining are similar to those seen with resistance exercise. [Sources: 7, 11, 12]

It is believed that high-volume aerobic exercise can lead to symptoms of parasympathetic overtraining, such as fatigue. High-intensity training leads to the sympathetic symptoms of overtraining, such as anxiety, anxiety, and insomnia. Overtraining not only lowers performance, but also makes seemingly effortless workouts unusually difficult. [Sources: 4, 13]

Heart rate recovery, heart rate immediately after exercise, can also be affected by overtraining. While increased training volume (total time spent exercising) and exercise intensity (measured by heart rate) are often associated with OT, delayed recovery also plays a key role - even the best training program can harm the body when recovery is inadequate. Thus, overtraining the body without giving it time to rest can have both physical and psychological effects on athletes. [Sources: 6, 14, 15]

For this reason, it cannot always be assumed that these symptoms are the result of overtraining. Irritability, agitation, and depression are usually symptoms of overtraining. Research has shown that over half of professional soccer players will experience overtraining syndrome during the season, 60% of skiers will experience overtraining syndrome at some point in their careers, and one-third of athletes on a six-week basketball court. experienced overtraining syndrome. [Sources: 3, 4, 10]

Overtraining occurs in both high-volume training regimens such as swimming programs and high-intensity training regimens such as lifting weights. Overtraining has traditionally been described as a decrease in athletic performance as a result of excessive increases in training volume and / or intensity and competition. This more complex view is reflected in the NASM textbook's definition of overtraining as “excessive training frequency, volume, or intensity that results in decreased performance, which is also caused by inadequate rest and recovery” (Sutton, 2022). Overtraining in athletes is excessive stress that can lead to systemic pathological consequences that take months or years to recover. [Sources: 3, 4, 6, 14]

Overtraining and / or insufficient recovery can lead to both physical and psychological symptoms of overtraining, which can potentially lead to overtraining syndrome. Overuse and / or inadequate recovery can cause both physiological and psychological symptoms that limit performance and can lead to withdrawal from previously enjoyable activities. This is most common among athletes who train for extended periods of time to exhaustion and then do not give their body enough rest time to recover. [Sources: 2, 5, 15]

Those who continually push their boundaries while exercising face a very serious condition of overtraining. It is more common among college athletes, triathletes, ultramarathons, and other endurance athletes. [Sources: 1]

Lack of quality sleep can also lead to chronic fatigue and mood swings. If this sounds like you, the inability to exercise or compete (combined with hormonal imbalances and lack of quality sleep) can significantly affect your psyche. Heavy and frequent exercise on a regular basis, as well as poor sleep, high stress levels, and a low-calorie, low-carb diet can increase your chances of developing overtraining syndrome. An intense training program that involves accumulating too many training sessions without enough rest days or recovery time can put too much strain on your system, with the result that your supportive training program could backfire. [Sources: 10, 11, 12, 13]

Overcoming distances means that a particularly intense training period, such as some really hard training or long-distance endurance competition, will result in a temporary decrease in performance. When you get enough rest, overworking can further increase productivity. While this is mainly caused by excessive exercise, it can be accelerated by other life stresses such as long work, difficult social relationships, diet, and lack of sleep. [Sources: 10, 12]

Recent studies have shown that up to 93% of athletes suffering from unexplained decreased performance also report having stressors other than exercise, so managing these stressors is important. [Sources: 12]

Overtraining is often difficult to predict because each athlete reacts differently to certain workouts. But without adequate rest and recovery, these training regimes can backfire and even reduce performance. You can reach a point of overtraining if you exercise too much without adequate recovery time between workouts. After a certain point, too much exercise can harm your health and interfere with your results, especially if your workouts are close to each other. [Sources: 8, 11, 15]

Weightlifters who maintain an intense training program can also cut calories. Too much exercise without enough rest can lead to low testosterone levels and high levels of the stress hormone cortisol. [Sources: 11]

Overtraining can release a lot of hormones, which can lead to emotional problems. Overtraining can affect stress hormone levels, leading to depression, confusion, and mood swings. Overtraining can significantly affect stress hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline. [Sources: 10, 11, 13]

Exceeding the body stress threshold with excessive training and / or slowed recovery (unbalanced training equation) can cause excessive physical stress and impaired adaptation. The spectrum of overtraining can be represented by three phases: a combination of progressive deterioration in health and fitness caused by the body's inability to adapt to the accumulation of stress. In sports physiology, overtraining syndrome is observed as a result of an unbalanced training plan in terms of physical activity levels, non-training stress load (life) and a period of rest. [Sources: 0, 14]

Overtraining (OT) results from increased training and / or non-training stress leading to long-term performance decline, with or without associated physiological and psychological signs of maladjustment, when performance may take several weeks to several weeks to recover. months. During this process, athletes can go through various phases that can range from undertraining between competitive seasons or active rest and decline to overtraining (OR) and overtraining (OT), which includes inadequacies and competitive results. Overtraining syndrome (OTC) usually results from an exercise program that increases sharply or suddenly, lasts for extended periods of time, and is performed at high volume or high intensity, or both without sufficient recovery time. [Sources: 0, 7]

Although some highly motivated personal trainers and athletes may try to stick to the principles or go home and give 110% consistently, it is important to understand that diverse training programs and regular evaluations are essential to improve and prevent OTS. Here, we explored what OTC is, why it is so difficult to "diagnose", a series of symptoms that can be used as warning signs, and some methods to help the body heal and return to its previous performance level. The new NASM Personal Fitness Training Essentials (7th edition, Jones & Bartlett, 2022) describes the overtraining syndrome as "a condition in which an athlete or fitness client experiences fatigue, decreased performance, and exhaustion" (Sutton, 2022). ). Overtraining refers to the imbalance or lack of physical, biochemical, and/or psycho-emotional stress in the athlete’s life. [Sources: 6, 7, 14]

Most of the time, overtraining is noticed by athletes when, despite the "hard work", they perform worse instead of better. Today, the only way to avoid OTS is to follow basic "advice": eating properly, sleeping enough, taking days off, etc [Source: 16].

Furthermore, “prevention” of OTS can be done only by monitoring “warning signs”, such as the increased occurrence of illness, constant fatigue, etc. The problem with these methods is that when such signs occur, it is already too late.

Besides, there is no way for athletes to be sure to avoid such situations. And research shows that there is an absence of validated diagnostic tests and preventative measures [Source: 17].

Overtraining is, consequently, a problem for all athletes—professionals or not. At the same time, few prevention methods are efficient for tackling this issue. That's where PULSE® kicks-in.


[17]: Kreher, J. B. (2016). Diagnosis and prevention of overtraining syndrome: an opinion on education strategies. Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine.

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