The Overtrained State: How to Not Let It Derail Your Season or Overall Health – The Coach’s Perspective
I am continually getting the question, “what is the overtrained state, or what does overtrained mean?”
So, let’s revisit some key components, symptoms, and treatments. Entering this state is often precipitated by continually high volume and or intensity without adequate rest, and includes performance decline with other typical stress-related psychological, psychosomatic, and physiological symptoms and signs that can be graded from mild to severe.
Mild forms include psychological and psychosomatic symptoms (e.g., anger, fatigue, tension, loss of appetite, lethargy, or sexual unwillingness), some short-term sleep problems, and muscle fatigue. It can also include immune system and or hormonal disturbances such as upper respiratory infections and menstrual irregularities. Severe forms include symptoms such as depression, long-term insomnia, and long-term muscle soreness.
If any of this sounds familiar or commonplace, you need to take a step back and seriously analyze what you’re doing while you take the next 2-3 days off.
If you conclude that you’re at the more chronic/severe end of the spectrum, I highly recommend you seek a professional coach – one who’s degreed, certified in numerous areas, and has years of racing and coaching experience. This person can get you back on track and salvage your season, not to mention your health.
Delving a little deeper, if you recently experienced decreased performance, increased fatigue, sleep disturbances or an inability to remain asleep at night or during naps. Or, if you experience sudden persistent and more pronounced muscle soreness, increased injuries (i.e., stress fractures, muscle strains, biomechanical injuries due to inattentiveness). Increased irritability, heightened training and resting heart rate (HR), appetite changes in either direction, feeling of heaviness or lethargy (just feeling exhausted overall), or out of energy, all symptoms to look out for.
This is what we used to refer to as being “burned out,” then you have more than likely entered the “downward spiral of the overtrained state” as I like to call it.
At this point, you must significantly increase your rest and time off to get back to that adequately recovered state. You must “soul search,” make an honest assessment and take time off. Depending on where you are, this may mean days, weeks or even months if you’re severely overtrained.
First, take the next 48 hours off, and then reassess after this period. During this time off, I usually prescribe extra rest like whether naps or just staying off of your feet. A sports massage, Epsom (Magnesium Sulfate) Salts Baths, Ice or Ice/Heat Therapy, Stim Therapy or Electronic Stimulation therapy with devices such as a Marc Pro or Complex Stimulation Unit are also very beneficial in muscle recovery and repair. Along with these therapies, it’s even more critical to stay hydrated.
If your HR is still elevated, and the overall feelings are still unchanged, then continue with another 48 hours off and reassess again.
For most of you, you’ll be feeling like a tiger again in 48–72 hours, and be able to pull yourself back into a healthy trained state. It is most helpful when others (i.e., coaches, training partners, teammates, family members) can assist you with an objective viewpoint, as they may observe cues or stimuli that you may not realize you’re exhibiting.
If you remember nothing else, remember that considering all of the Optimal Performance Components, “Recovery is just as Important as Training Itself©!”
So, go out and emphasize your recovery, because I know you’re going to focus on your training, and if you have learned how your body responds and recovers, then you will progress towards your optimal performance potential. Don’t ignore these signs – as they may become very dangerous to your health, not to mention future performances. If you have questions, just ask the coach.