Athletes and gym junkies alike are always striving for progression, improvement, and gains. It is obvious that to continually progress, a more physically taxing and exhausting regime must be enforced, however, on occasions this can be taken too far. Overtraining syndrome occurs when frequency, duration or intensity exceeds the functional limits for that individual, and can have a range of symptoms including lack of energy, aches and pains, headaches, muscle soreness, insomnia, and a sudden drop off in performance.
Literature by Kreher and Schwartz (2012) promotes that overtraining syndrome is simply your body telling you that it cannot keep up, and that it likely needs more food fuels, and/or greater recovery periods between workouts, along with sleep. Whilst the symptoms may be uncomfortable and limit performance, Kreher and Schwartz also recognise that the syndrome will also leave you susceptible to illness, due to a decreased immunity.
How is overtraining syndrome contracted? Budgett (1990), refers to the matter that the syndrome is not a physical illness, therefore cannot be spread as such like a virus. The research realises that from excessive training comes issues, and may begin with an injury followed by an inappropriate recovery period or protocol. The piece suggested that moving beyond 5 training sessions per week (depending on intensity and rest periods) is where athletes begin to become susceptible and should focus on their diet and recovery regime, along with sleep cycle, ensuring that their body has ample rest.
How can you tell if you have an overtraining syndrome?
Whilst you may be experiencing symptoms, to be sure it is recommended to visit a general practitioner for a clinical diagnosis. From here, they will suggest alterations to diet and exercise to accommodate for the fatigue and resulting symptoms. Following confirmation from a GP, it is best to meet with professionals in the field such as a qualified nutritionist, and strength and conditioning coach. The nutritionist will be able to evaluate energy consumed versus the energy expended, and ensure that you have a surplus of calories in store to accommodate for the planned exercise. A strength and conditioning coach will be able to map out a gradual return to performance, ensuring that you fully recover. They will also look to mechanical efficiency, ensuring that you are performing your training without burning unnecessary energy.
Budgett, R. (1990). Overtraining Syndrome. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 24(4), 231-236. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1478908/pdf/brjsmed00032-0025.pdf
Kreher, J., & Schwartz, J. (2012). Overtraining Syndrome: A Practical Guide. Sports Health: A Multidisciplinary Approach, 4(2), 128-138. Retrieved from http://journals.sagepub.com.ezproxy.federation.edu.au/doi/pdf/10.1177/1941738111434406