There’s no doubt about it. In order to get good at something you need to push yourself. You need to mmmmbbbbust through plateaus, go one more round, dig deep and leave it all on the mat!
But is there such a thing as overdoing it?
For some people, the idea of over training is simply the lazy person’s way out of hard work. However, there can be too much of a good thing and while pushing yourself to the limits will get you results, overloading your system and missing adequate rest can cause the improvements gained to decrease over time and, in some situations, reverse.
Much like no two snowflakes will be the same, the path that leads one person to be overtrained probably won’t be the same path for another - one of the reasons some believe it to be a myth.
And while there have been less studies conducted on overtraining syndrome compared to overreaching – we’ll get to that a little later – overtraining does appear to have caused problems for a number of athletes.
To understand overtraining a little more, let’s quickly break down this syndrome and discuss some of the identifying symptoms and potential damages.
What is Overtraining Syndrome?
To understand overtraining we first have to go over something called overreaching.
Overreaching is the ideal combination of intense training and rest. The goal with overtraining is to push your body just beyond its comfortable level to encourage adaptation. This should place you in an athletic performance deficit, that is you’re tired, sore, gassed and generally slow to act. At this point if you perform proper recovery practices and get some solid rest and recuperation, your body should bounce back at a higher level than before via a phenomenon known as super compensation.
The problem is, sometimes you can get a little carried away, can’t you? Yeah, sometimes you miss out on a few hours sleep because you’re on Youtube searching for that technique to smash Johnny with as pay back for tapping you in front of your coach.
However you do it, foregoing proper rest only keeps you in that performance deficit state for longer. And when you finally go back to class, you’re going to suck. And the worst part is, the more this happens the greater the deficit becomes and the more time off you’ll need to get back on track – and that’s if you’re able to.
Symptoms of Overtraining and the Potential Damages
Listen to your body in regards to your training. It's the best indication of whether or not you’re under, ideally or overtraining.
Some of the most common tell tale signs that you’re overtrained are as follows:
- Poor Performance
- Restless Sleep
- Poor Focus
- Mood Swings
- Feelings of Depression
- Weight Loss
- Poor Appetite
- Weakened Immune System
Overtraining also has more severe consequences that can be extremely difficult to bounce back from. We’re talking weeks, months even years if left untreated.
This comes in the form of overtraining’s psychological and physiological similarities to major depression.
A ten year study on college swimmers found that specific mood imbalances were directly related to the volume and load of their training schedule, eventually returning back to normal after the competitive season had concluded. Furthermore, 80% of those swimmers had also been diagnosed as clinically depressed based on their overtraining symptoms. (1)
This is most likely due to the effects of adrenal dysfunction, altered cortisol and epinephrine levels and dysfunctional sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system response.
It has also been suggested that severe depression and depression like symptoms may reduce neural plasticity in the brain. (2)
What this means is that while exercise can improve brain function and neurogenesis, going overboard has the potential to destroy it.
What Can You Do to Avoid or Treat Overtraining?
While treating severe cases may require professional help, ensuring you take time to rest and recover after training is essential:
- Take days off when you need them,
- Reduce outside stressors in your life
- Reduce stimulants after training
- Avoid eating at a caloric deficit
- Improve your sleep quality
You and you alone will be the best judge of whether you’re overtrained or not. It is important that you listen to your body and base your decisions on how you feel and not what some other person in your life believes.
In saying that, having one roll in class and feeling tired doesn’t necessarily mean you’re overtrained, out of shape maybe, but not overtrained.