| 30/06/2016 | 0 Comments More
Are you over training?

Are you over training?

Over Training – Are You At Risk?

Overtraining syndrome is an imbalance between the time spent training and recovering, exercise and exercise capacity, stress and stress tolerance.  Stress is the sum of training and non-training factors.


Overtraining syndrome is a condition brought on by regular, excessive, high-intensity, high volume exercise, resulting in long-term performance decrements that cannot be remedied by a few days rest.  The syndrome should be differentiated from the normal short-term fatigue that takes place post exercise.  Most research into overtraining syndrome has been conducted on athletes because their training is often intensive in order to achieve peak performance.  However, research suggests that individuals training twice or more a day may also be at risk.

So What Are The Symptoms?

Symptoms associated with the development of overtraining syndrome can be divided into the following four major categories; physiological, biochemical, psychological and immunological.

Symptoms include disturbed sleep, chronic fatigue, decreased performance, poor appetite, loss of muscle mass, depression, increased resting heart rate and susceptibility to infection.  In addition, decreased submaximal and maximum heart rates, decreased maximum oxygen uptake, as well as decreased submaximal lactate levels, have also been reported in response to too much training and too little recovery.

Over Training

Over Training

The immune system is stimulated by moderate exercise but suppressed by intensive exercise.  Natural killer cells (NK cells) are thought to play an important role in the first line of defense against infection.  Studies on the influence of moderate exercise training on immune system have shown that near daily brisk walking reduced the number of sickness days by half over a 12-15 week period.  However, excessive high-intensity exercise may severely suppress NK cell functioning and expose the body to virus.

Reports suggest that overtraining syndrome develops on a continuum from short-term (acute) to long term (chronic), and that symptoms may vary depending on what stage you have reached along the continuum.  Some symptoms occur along the whole continuum, whilst others only occur at a particular stage.  For example, fatigue is associated with acute overtraining whilst depression is linked with chronic overtraining.  Declines in performance, which are regarded as the hallmark of overtraining, occur along the whole continuum.  Lack of accepted tests make it difficult to diagnose what stage has been reached along the response continuum.

What Are The Causes Of Overtraining Syndrome?

Physiological Stress

The main factor thought to be responsible for this syndrome is lack of sufficient recovery after heavy physical training.  Training intensity and exercise duration are the most critical factors which together determine physiological stress.  To become fitter you need to progressively overload the body by working harder than normal.  A recovery period must follow during which time the body can adapt and become stronger.  This process is known as positive overtraining or supercompensation because it produces improvements in conditioning and performance.

Supercompensation involves a breakdown process (physical training) followed by a recovery process (rest) which results in adaptation. The more intense the training, the greater the breakdown.  High-Intensity training therefore demands a higher quality, longer duration recovery period than low to moderate training.  If adaptation is not adequate, an exhaustion phase follows which may eventually lead to the death of the physiological system involved.

The stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline regulate energy production.  During exercise, levels of these hormones increase to facilitate energy production by stimulating the catabolism (breakdown) of carbohydrates, fats, and protein to fuel muscle contraction.  During the recovery period that follows, stress hormone levels return to normal, facilitating anabolic (re-building) processes and glycogen resynthesis.  Repeated bouts of high-intensity, high volume exercise without adequate rest may abnormally elevate resting levels of cortisol and adrenaline placing the body in a predominantly catabolic state.  Prolonged exposure to cortisol and adrenaline can lead to the development of various complaints including heart disease, osteoporosis, hypertension, depression and Cushing’s Syndrome.

Psycho/Social Stress

Psychological and social stress stimulates the release of cortisol and adrenaline and may contribute to the development of overtraining syndrome.  Scientists have reported symptoms of overtraining syndrome in these athletes who exercise at low to moderate intensity levels but who experience high psychological and social stress.  The onset of overtraining syndrome in these athletes was caused by an increase in psychological stress which led to an inability to recover from a previously well-tolerated exercise programme (psychological stress).  Another study reported that perceived conflicts, occurring during the past three days, had a substantial effect on recovery thereby affecting performance.  Psycho/Social stress should not be disregarded as potential contributors to overtraining syndrome.  It is important to modify the intensity of physical stress when psychological stress is high.

Individual Differences

Individual differ in their ability to tolerate and recover from physiological, psychological and social stress.  This may explain why two individuals of comparable physical fitness respond differently to the same physical training programme.  Individual differences in motivation, confidence, attitude and ability to create and maintain relationships may influence an individual’s capacity to tolerate and recover from physiological stress, and their vulnerability to developing overtraining syndrome.

The Importance of Total Stress

Different types of stress contribute to the total level of stress which may provoke the development of overtraining syndrome.  It is unclear to what extent non-training stress factors can provoke overtraining syndrome.  However, is has been suggested that only a small increase in total stress might suddenly bring about the onset of overtraining syndrome.

How Is It Prevented?

To date, physical inactivity (those up to three days rest) is the best known method for preventing overtraining syndrome.  Recovery methods can be divided in to four categories; nutrition and hydration, sleep and rest, relaxation and emotional support & stretching and active rest.

The quality and duration of recovery should match the intensity and duration of the preceding exercise session.

High-Intensity training demands a higher quality and longer recovery period.  For some individuals, refraining from exercise training is highly undesirables.  Often athletes and fitness enthusiasts will respond to a plateau or fall in performance by increasing their training load.  The need to maximise income may prevent exercise instructors from taking adequate rest.  Fitness centre employers and management need to be aware of the potential dangers of staff teaching regular high-intensity exercise classes.  Overcoming syndrome should be treated using methods that match the major cause of the condition.  For example, if physiological stress is thought to be the cause, recovery should fall into the relaxation and emotional category.

Measuring Recovery

Individuals who take part in high-intensity, high volume exercise every day need a reliable and user friendly system to monitor recovery and to prevent the onset of overtraining syndrome.  The total Quality Recovery (TQR) model has been developed for this purpose.  This method is based on Borg’s Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) technique which has been shown to be accurate in estimating exercise intensity.

Following the TQR model, athletes can rate their exercise recovery for the past 24hrs using the rate of perceived recovery scale illustrated below.  Next they refer to the TQR manual which contains guidelines on how to accelerate their recovery over the next 24hrs.  This involves the accumulation of recovery categories outlined earlier in this article.

The TQR method focuses on both psychological and physiological recovery cues including changes in mood-state and bodily signals, for example, sensations of soreness.  By directing attention to psychological cues, the TQR encourages self-awareness.  The technique is highly individualised and can therefore accommodate individual differences in recovery.

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Category: Anatomy & Physiology, For the Trainer, Health News

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