Many athletes train hard in order to succeed at their chosen sport. They log many miles, spend many hours at the gym, and work hard day after day, driven to achieve their athletic goals. However, too much training can actually lead to a decline in performance. This decline is due to a condition called overtraining.
Too much training is classified into two types: overreaching and overtraining (staleness). Overreaching is the first phase of overtraining and is more easily reversed. Overreaching is unusual muscle soreness that occurs when an athlete does not allow for a sufficient amount of recovery time between hard workouts. This usually occurs after several consecutive days of hard training.
Overtraining or staleness occurs when an athlete ignores the signs of overreaching and continues to train. Many athletes believe that weakness or poor performance signals the need for even harder training. So, they continue to push themselves. This only breaks down the body further. It is very difficult to recover from overtraining and can require weeks or months of time off. This can be challenging for someone whose life has revolved around training and competing. Identifying overreaching early is important.
Athletes are more susceptible to breakdown and overtraining if there are other stressors present in their lives: work, school, relationships, etc. An athlete should use "down time" from training to work on evaluating and balancing these other important aspects of life.
Once you recognize the signs and symptoms of overtraining, talk with your coach, athletic trainer and doctor. Working as a team, these sports medicine professionals can give you some guidelines for recovery, which will probably include the following:
Even though it may be difficult, you must use the same discipline developed during training to comply with the recommendations of your sports medicine team. The more closely you follow their guidelines, the sooner you’ll be back in the gym, at the track, or on the field.