Overtraining comes in two main forms, chronic and acute. Chronic overtraining is fairly rare and traumatic, but acute overtraining has broader symptoms and affects many athletes. Acute overtraining can be caused by training with too high frequency, intensity, and/or volume, or by failing to recover sufficiently from training via sleep, diet, and lifestyle. Overtraining is not to be feared, but recognizing overtraining symptoms is key to better managing your training, recovery, performance, and mental state.
The Internet pendulum swings rapidly on the subject of overtraining, and a brief survey on the topic will reveal attitudes both of constant fear of overtraining even in the lowest volume training situations and macho “there’s no such thing as overtraining” attitudes. The reality lies somewhere in the middle and the polarity of opinion is mostly the result of a lack of understanding of what overtraining actually is.
First, let’s clear up what overtraining is not. Overtraining is not overreaching. Overreaching is a strategic training period as part of a taper cycle when fatigue will be incurred past a recoverable level. Many athletes will experience this as a natural part of a training cycle. This period is strategic, intentional, and should be carefully monitored by the coach and athlete. The athlete overreaches for a short period of time (2-3 weeks) during which time fatigue is very high and performance is diminished, then training is scaled back for another short period of time (1-2 weeks) to allow for recovery before a peak performance. This is the strategy of tapering to produce an immediate short-term spike in performance for a peak event.
Overtraining is different from overreaching in that it is not strategic, does not have a performance purpose, and is the result of a mistake or error on behalf of the coach or athlete.
Continue reading → All About Overtraining