By Michael Simmer BS, CSCS, LMT, FST
You’ve seen it before, and you’ll see it again. That client, who has been intensely training for months, but starts to mention that they haven’t slept well for weeks, and the stress is starting to get in the way of their performance. You may suspect they’re overtrained, which is quite common among competitive athletes and also can be seen in our everyday clients as well. While overtraining can occur in a variety of different ways, it typically results from a combination of hormonal, neuroendocrine, and nutritional imbalances, secondary to heavy training.
The Signs of Overtraining
Although it can produce positive outcomes, intense training completed too frequently without sufficient rest, can compromise a client’s muscular, endocrine, and immune systems, as well as psychological state. Signs and symptoms of overtraining can be:
- Extreme muscle soreness or stiffness during and in-between training sessions
- Unintentional weight loss
- Chronic fatigue
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Depression and/or anxiety
- Sleep disturbances
Once we detect these signs and symptoms, we can work with our clients to avoid overtraining. By watching performance, attitude and physical changes, you’ll be able to quickly identify at-risk clients, and quickly offer practical solutions:
- Schedule training days complemented by rest and/or off days: To maximize performance clients need a schedule that incorporates both training and rest days. In a recent study, researchers found that athletes who incorporated light, leisure activity into their weekly training regimens reported less exhaustion and fewer injuries.
- Promote a well-balanced, whole foods diet eaten at the right time: During intense training, a well-balanced diet should be encouraged, emphasizing the importance of nutrient timing. Research suggests that the scheduled timing of dietary consumption can be just as important as its composition, and should complement heavy training to enhance performance. Ensure your client is adequately fueling their body before, during and after exercise.
- Encourage adequate sleep: During intense training regimens, competitive athletes require adequate sleep to provide rest to the body and support mental calmness as well. To improve your clients sleeping habits suggest a variety of approaches, keeping their bedrooms free of electronics an hour before bed, and incorporating relaxing strategies such as deep breathing before bed.
When a client’s Overtrained
If overtraining is suspected, a few simple changes can help promote recovery while minimizing stress. To assist in the recovery from overtraining, suggest dietary modifications, support the need for rest and off days during training.
- Dietary Modifications: Focusing on nutrient dense foods is vital to recovery from heavy training. Some research supports that many of the effects and symptoms of overtraining is caused by inflammation and cytokine release, which has been associated with fatigue, attitude changes and adrenal changes. Consuming a clean, well-balanced diet rich in anti-inflammatory Omega-3s, and antioxidants can help support recovery. Encourage your clients to add more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, to help manage inflammation.
- Rest: Five weeks of rest, which should include off and light training days, supports sustainable recovery. Although clients will recover at their own rate depending on the severity at which they’ve overtrained, steady and constant recovery should not be rushed.
At some point in your career, you will meet those clients who are doing everything they can to gain an edge in their training and reaching their goals at any cost. What they may not realize is that passion can both fuel their motivation and, unknowingly, increase their chances of overtraining. You can direct these clients in the right direction by using a training schedule that includes rest days, promoting a well-balanced diet and encouraging adequate sleep. As coaches, we are crucial to maximizing performance and minimizing the risk of overtraining for every level of client we train.
Contact us today to get a personalized training schedule!
Kreher J. (2012). Overtraining Syndrome: A Practical Guide. Sports Health. 4(2), 128-138.
Zoorab R. (2013). Sports Nutrition Needs Before, During and After Exercise. Primary Care. 40(2), 475-86.