What is Overtraining Syndrome?

Recently, Olympic swimmer Simone Manuel revealed she was suffering from “overtraining syndrome” after experiencing fatigue, depression, insomnia & decreased performance. 

The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote:

“Overtraining syndrome is an important and often under-recognized problem in athletes. It can start in youth sports and progress up to the highest level of competition. An athlete’s body is like a machine, and without enough rest between workouts or fuel from nutritional support, the machine can be strained and start to break down. Overtraining syndrome occurs when the body starts to break down from prolonged overuse, leading to physical and emotional symptoms. It has sometimes been referred to as “burnout” and has led some athletes to change sports, or drop down in levels of competition, or even retire from sports.” 

Rest is an essential ingredient in one’s training program

Competitive athletes like to train! Rest is very hard for many, but is an essential ingredient in one’s training plan. Some athletes say, “rest is unnecessary” or “a waste of time.” But rest helps the muscular, nervous, and immune systems recover, helps to strengthen and rebuild, while allowing athletes to minimize soreness, inflammation, and illness.  Rest helps with recovery and performance gains. For more about why rest days are important, check out this article.

SIGNS OF OVERTRAINING SYNDROME: 

  • Fatigue
  • Decreased performance (slower, weaker, less endurance)
  • Reduced training response (failure to progress despite training hard)
  • Altered heart rate (too slow/fast heart rate – check with MD!)
  • Changes in vital signs in positions (change in pulse or blood pressure)
  • Hormone changes (decreased estrogen/females, decreased testosterone/males, increased cortisol- stress hormone)
  • Repeat injuries or pain
  • Decreased interest/enjoyment in sport
  • Loss of motivation
  • Depression, anxiety, irritability
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Changes in weight
  • Perpetually sore muscles, and more! 

A sports dietitian (Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics – CSSD), a sports medical doctor, and a sports psychologist can be helpful to those experiencing this. 

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