You’re training hard almost every day week after week and things are going well. You’re regularly setting PRs and getting in great shape for your sport. Then things start going awry. Your strength declines. You feel exhausted. You’re not injured, but something just doesn’t feel right.
In this case, you might be suffering from a case of overtraining, which occurs when we push our bodies through extreme training conditions without proper rest between training sessions. This is generally caused by either working out too frequently, doing too many exercises or reps (volume) or training at too high an intensity.
The result is extreme fatigue, excessive soreness, staleness, burnout, illness or injury, all of which are associated with lack of rest, recovery and poor nutrition habits (NSCA Essentials, 2008).
With the onset of overtraining, it can take several weeks to several months to recover. This is a particular problem if it times up with your sports season, and can be a major setback for your training.
Individuals should engage in a planned training program to increase intensity when necessary and then taper training to improve performance. A successful training program incorporates adequate rest between training days to prevent burnout and injury. Below are three tips to help prevent overtraining to ensure an active and healthy training program.
Learn How to Recover
Many athletes believe that more training is always better. However, you need to recover to allow your body to adapt, or supercompensate, and actually get stronger and bigger. For a high school athlete, 3 to 4 60-minute workouts per week should be more than sufficient. For optimal recovery, perform the workouts on non-consecutive days.
Plan Your Rest Days
A rest day doesn’t mean you have to do nothing. Instead, do some passive rest or active recovery with a low-intensity cross-training activity such as a hike, walking or a light cycle workout. You can also take a rest day to improve your mobility.
Control What You Can in Your Life
If your training session lasts for 60 minutes, you have 23 hours in the day to positively impact your body. The easiest thing you can do is get 7 to 9 hours of sleep and establish a normal sleep pattern. And second, focus on your nutrition. If you’re a high school athlete, odds are you won’t eat perfectly 100 percent of the time. But at minimum make sure that good nutrition choices outweigh the bad. Ideally, you should only stray about 10 percent of the time.
The combination of sleep and nutriton will maximize your recovery and put you in a good position to make progress. Without both, you’re setting your body up for failure, since it won’t be as resilient to the high stress of an intense training program.
Baechle, T. R., & Earle, R. W. (2008). Essentials of Strength and Conditioning/National Strength and Conditioning Association– 3rd Edition. Champaign, IL.
Meeusen, R. D., Foster, M., Fry, C., Gleeson, A., & Nieman, D. (2013). “Prevention, Diagnosis and treatment of the overtraining syndrome.” Prevention, Diagnosis and treatment of the overtraining syndrome: joint consensus statement of the European College of Sport Science and the AMerican College of Sports Medicine 45(1).