As the summer solstice approaches, we move into a new season: the season of overtraining. The days get longer allowing for more outdoor training time, and the weather is nice which tempts us to cram in training sessions while we can. Add in the pressure that some of summer’s top events like the Missoula Marathon and the Missoula XC are just weeks away, and you have all of the right ingredients for overtraining and potential injury.
Any training will cause fatigue, but true overtraining requires going above and beyond tiredness caused by a few tough workouts. Overtraining is defined as chronic fatigue. This means listlessness and underperformance even after two weeks of rest are given and where no other medical condition such as anemia or mononucleosis can be identified as the cause. Other symptoms of overtraining include irritability, depression, and frustration with decreased performance. Unfortunately, this frustration will lead many to believe they need to train harder, worsening the problem. Other indicators of overtraining are loss of appetite, insomnia, loss of lean body mass, sluggishness, and frequent illness.
Highly motivated athletes may have a hard time avoiding overtraining especially because the optimal level of training stress will often take them right to the brink before crossing into overtraining. Elite-level coach and author of The Cyclist’s Training Bible, Joe Friel, calls this training load overreaching. This is an appropriate amount of fatigue that the body can then recover from with adequate rest. After many bouts of overreaching without rest, overtraining may be achieved. Friel places a huge emphasis on rest. He says that training doesn’t make you faster. Just training will make you tired; recovering from training is what gets results.
If you have been tempted into fatigue by the nice weather or a surplus of motivation, you can turn that around before you become overtrained. Don’t be afraid to rest until you feel energetic and ready to go again. Rest needs to include plenty of sleep, proper nutrition, and little to no exercise. Even active recovery or easy sessions may be too taxing on a body close to being overtrained. If caught at the right time, overtraining can be stopped, and your body will be rested and fast for the big races in July. Remember, in the words of Friel: “Train hard, rest harder.”
For more on overtraining visit Joe Friel’s blog by clicking here.
Brent Dodge is the founding owner of Alpine Physical Therapy and is a board certified orthopedic specialist. He holds additional certifications in Functional Dry Needling, Manual Physical Therapy, and Strength and Conditioning.
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