What is overtraining syndrome?

By: Jillian Chiappisi PT, DPT, SCS

Although somewhat controversial, “overtraining” is actually considered to be a syndrome in and of itself and is evidence of a body that is being pushed past the point of its ability to heal and repair itself.

According to the authors of this article, which studies gymnasts as a sample population, an increase (over the normal average morning resting heart rate) of just a few beats can indicate overtraining syndrome.

How can I tell if I’m overtraining?

Taking a morning heart rate is an easy way to check if your body is experiencing signs of fatigue and / or overtraining.

    Measuring your heart rate first thing in the morning, just after walking up, can tell you a lot about the processes of healing going in your body. 

“As soon as you wake up in the morning, find your pulse on your neck, just under your chin, or on your wrist. Using the watch, count the number of times your heart beats for 20 seconds. Multiply this number by three and you will have your resting heart rate (RHR) in beats per minute (bpm). Record this number in your notebook next to the day’s date. Now make sure to repeat this process every morning. With each passing day, you’re creating workouts to ensure that you’re recovered.  You can also look at this data when you think you might be facing a case of overtraining.”

For a more detailed example of how to check heart rate, and for age related normal values click here.

How can I avoid overtraining?

  1. See a physical therapist
    • A physical therapist can evaluate your movements and help determine inefficiencies, potential areas for concern, reduce overall risk for injury.
    • A physical therapist can help you structure your training to incorporate the right amount of rest and work to help keep you below injury and overtraining thresholds.
  2. Tracking training 
    • Charting or journaling your training can be a great way to avoid increasing too much too fast.
    • As a general rule, and increase of more than “10%” per week should be applied to training. This is not an exact rule however, & if applied, should be carefully monitored by a health care professional to endure the proper application of the “rule” to avoid injury.
  3. Change up your modality of exercise 
    • One simple way to help reduce your own risk for overuse is by varying your type of training. Evidence shows that those athletes who preform more than one type of exercise considerable reduce risk for injury and overtraining.
  4. Life Style 
    • Achieving a well balanced athletic routine starts with sleep and requires regular maintenance throughout each and every day. Make sure you (or your young athlete) get plenty of good food, water, and sleep. Check out this roadmap by Dr. Joshua Eldridge of GymnastCare for more.
    • Sleep is an essential time for the body to go through its natural healing processes. Getting proper sleep is a key component in reducing risk for overtraining as well a injury.
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