Over training is a condition that is generally seen in elite, professional and semi-professional athletes who do not have the proper support teams around them and are not managing their training and body correctly. But with the recent rise in popularity in amateur endurance events such as triathlons, marathons and adventure racing over training is becoming more prevalent in the wider sporting community.
Physical activity results in stress loading, as well as stretching and contracting of muscles, tendons and ligaments to and sometimes beyond there limits, resulting in micro trauma (small tearing and damage) and occasionally macro trauma (large tearing and damage).
The body therefore needs time to heal and recover from that micro trauma. If there is insufficient recovery time the muscles, tendons and ligaments begin to fail as they start to weaken under the continual stress loadings.
Over training injuries are also affected by the emotional and psychological stresses that are associated with the pressure and expectations of sporting competition and life such as work and relationship stress.
Those Most At Risk
Over training injuries commonly occur in newcomers to a sport or physical activity as the body does not have to strength to cope with the new demands placed on it. It also frequently occurs when there has been a change in the preexisting training regime whether that be, the intensity of the program, adaptation of exercises, introduction of new exercises, changes in training surfaces etc.
Theories on why over training occurs?
There are various theories as to why over training injuries occur and what happens to the body, these include:
- Insufficient metabolic recovery causing a decrease in ATP levels (the body’s energy source).
- Inability of the hypothalamus (brain) to deal with the stresses place on the body.
- Changes within the muscles, tendons and bones in response to the high training levels which are not beneficial to performance and increase the risk of injury.
- Training for too many consecutive days in a row meaning the muscles, tendons and ligaments do not have a regular, substantial block of time to repair themselves after being punished by strenuous training.
Factors which can lead to exposure of an over training injury include:
- Muscle Imbalance
- Muscle Weakness
- Technique and training errors
Signs and Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of over training injuries vary between individuals but they include:
- Musculoskeletal injuries
- Immune system suppression
- Psychological problems
- Decrease aerobic performance
- Reduced muscle glycogen (energy) resources
- Changes in strength and flexibility
- Failure to recover with 72 hours
Any “twinges”, “niggles”, “discomforts” or pain experienced during or after exercise should be seen to by a primary health care practitioner as they are usually early warning signs that the body is straining under the current workload and regime. If ignored or “trained through” these can end up being more serious injuries such as tears and ruptures.
Prevention of over training injuries includes:
- Having a good sports specific conditioning program to build a strong musculoskeletal base on, which the skill base can be built on
- The conditioning program needs include specificity, recovery and progression
- Any previously injured or weakened areas need specific strengthening
- Stretching post workout
- Train in blocks and taper for competitions
- Avoiding training too many consecutive days in a row
- Make sure you have a well balanced diet and are hydrating/rehydrating appropriately
- Above all enjoy your sports and exercises and if something does not feel right stop, ice, rest and seek out some treatment.
Current Sports Medicine Reports, Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise, Sports Medicine Journal, Exercise and Sports Science Review, The Physician and Sports Medicine