What is that?
For a lot of runners, training never starts, because for a lot of runners, training never ends. For a lot of runners, running never ends!
This can be said about many athletes across many sports. There is a substantial portion of people, however, who’s training regime fluctuates based on season, age, work schedule, or even by what they ate the night before. Whether you’re either of these types, there is a condition that all should know about. It’s called Overtraining Syndrome (OTS), or by its less severe form, Overreaching Syndrome (OR).
Most health articles or training blogs will focus on pushing one’s body to the limit to reach a goal. And there is nothing wrong with this mentality! It can be a daily struggle just to get those running shoes on, and the encouragement and guidance that a lot of these resources provide is a good thing. There is a growing body of research, however, that is teaching us the importance of not going past one’s limit.
So, what is OTS and OR?
These conditions are basically what they sound like: too much training, exercise, effort, etc, with not enough rest. OTS will most likely apply to the elite athletes who, over an extended period, continually push themselves too much. True OTS can take months if not years to fully recover from. OR, however, can affect many others in more subtle ways, and does not take as long to develop or resolve.
To dive deeper into OTS and OR, we can summarize the conditions as an imbalance of the nervous system; specifically, the continual overactivation of the sympathetic system (fight or flight), without a proper counterbalance of the parasympathetic (rest and digest). Constantly activating one part, and not allowing the other to counteract, can cause long-lasting changes in the body.
How do you know when or if you have one of these conditions?
This is a very big question! Because of the multitude of systems that can be affected by OR and OTS, it is very difficult to know if overtraining is the cause, or another condition (preexisting or not). Here are just some of the symptoms that may arise from OR and OTS:
- Elevated resting heart rate
- Sleeping problems; insomnia, poor quality sleep, listlessness
- Emotional changes; irritability increase, depression
- Increase in fatigue
- Decrease in athletic performance
- Prolonged muscle soreness
- Appetite problems
- Digestive problems
This time of year is particularly important to discuss OTS, especially for a lot of runners, and especially in these northern climates, because this is when many start to ramp up their training schedule and intensity to get ready for an often-warmer month’s event; marathon, half marathon, triathlon, endurance challenge, etc. You can probably imagine the frustration for individuals in situations where the more they do, the poorer results they achieve. For these individuals, it is not only the physiological effects of poor performance, but the psychological. And it is sometimes these psychological hurdles that are harder to overcome!
So, pay attention to your body, and try to recognize the beginning signs of OR and OTS.
Strategy is important: proper planning, with a specific training program, to meet a realistic goal.
Certified Orthopedic Bracing Specialist