Overtraining – Symptoms, causes and treatment

For many, overtraining is something that may be associated with elite athletes and others who invest heavily in training. But it can also affect others, provided the amount of exercise increases far too sharply for a short period.

For many, improved performance, heightened intensity and greater load are part of the pleasure of training. Goals that have not been achieved before are an important part of, for example, running faster or lifting heavier. In English, healthy exercise with high goals is usually called “overreaching” while overtraining syndrome with negative effects is called “overtraining syndrome”. In USA, there will be the difference between congestion and overtraining. It is somewhere where the dividing line is drawn between targeted training with positive effects and the type of training that leads to overtraining.

Because there is not very good research in this area, it is difficult to find the exact dividing line between overload and overtraining. It is also difficult to define when someone starts showing signs of overtraining. Professional athletes often have periods when they temporarily try to top the form by doing exactly the things that are linked to overtraining, such as overloading heavily at almost every workout without getting a good recovery. Somewhere the effect instead becomes the opposite.

Exercise should be something fun that will make you feel better both physically and mentally. The body breaks down when you exercise, and then needs to be rebuilt. A good recovery is important for performing at a high level. In case of overtraining, motivation can start to be forced and result in performance deteriorating. Exercise can become a “must” in order to feel satisfied with yourself, while the motivation and desire to exercise is no longer there.

Symptoms of overtraining

Some symptoms of overtraining are:

  • Impaired performance
  • Tiredness
  • Insomnia
  • Increased risk of infection
  • Increased heart rate
  • Sore muscles and joints
  • Depression

A common symptom of overtraining is that performance does not increase, despite high intensity or high workouts. If the performance does not increase even though you exercise every day or almost every day, it may be a sign of overtraining. Fatigue is another common symptom. Fatigue often becomes part of the degraded exercise results, as you rarely feel taller when walking and exercising. It is common for the stress and lack of recovery to make it difficult to fall asleep or sleep all night.

The lack of rest and recovery can make you sick more often. You also often get sicker than usual when you get a cold. The immune system often breaks down temporarily as we exercise, and the rest is its chance to rebuild. The resting heart rate can be increased due to the stress. Exercise pain that usually lasts for one or two days may now consist of sore joint pain or muscle pain that rarely disappears between the workouts. Prolonged exercise pain can be a sign of inadequate recovery.

For those who exercise frequently or on a professional level, the training is something that can be closely linked to self-esteem. The degraded performance and the lack of energy can be something that leads to depression and reduced self-esteem.

Causes of overtraining

The most common causes of overtraining are lack of recovery or a greatly increased amount of exercise. The recovery often goes hand in hand with other symptoms such as fatigue and difficulty sleeping. This applies, for example, if you exercise hard and at the same time stress a lot and do not have time to sleep properly. For many, it becomes a vicious cycle where one does not find the rest or performance and then compensates with another exhausting workout.

Stress factors in addition to exercise can also affect. Work life, studies, economics and other types of stress can come in and affect performance and amplify the symptoms of overtraining. In many ways, the signs of overtraining are similar to those that occur in fatigue syndrome. In the past, it was believed that overtraining was only about physical overload and recovery. It has turned out to be a much more complex problem where the causes vary between different individuals.

Treatment of overtraining

The best way to avoid over-training is to prevent it by adding proper rest and recovery to the exercise schedule. Do not increase the amount or intensity of exercise too quickly. It can also be good to vary the training form, intensity and training environment. For example, when you divide your workout into different muscle groups, the muscles that are not trained are given time to recover. If a lot of stress arises from the outside, it can be good to, for example, insert work-related things into the training schedule and then build a realistic layout based on it.

If the symptoms of overtraining reach more severe levels, you may need to stop training altogether for a period of time. You may then need to slowly step up the exercise again to find a healthy level. Many times it depends on how long you have had the symptoms of overtraining. You will often come back faster if you notice the symptoms early and for example put in more rest and recovery.

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