OVERTRAINING (2009)- To begin, let's review the spectrum of various states of fatigue as defined in our previous article. Specifically, we cited functional over-reaching (FOR), non-functional over-reaching (NFOR) and overtraining syndrome (OTS) as points on a spectrum of cumulative fatigue. Ideally, FOR is the state an athlete is trying to impose by applying adequate stress to the body so as to illicit a response that, once recovered from, will result in an increased level of fitness. Continuously over-reaching without proper recovery leads to NFOR, which, if an athlete ignores, will inevitably progress to OTS, or as we like to say "the ever-deepening pit of fatigue."
All triathletes can relate to the concept of overtraining. In pursuit of our goals we either train too much or too intensely and ultimately slip beyond the point of recovery. Working with a coach is one way to make this less likely as he or she should be able to objectively and subjectively detect a state of overtraining and make adjustments in your program in real time. For those without the luxury of working with a coach, it is still possible to maintain an awareness of your level of fatigue.
Physical Changes that indicate possible overtraining:
1. Unintended weight loss or weight gain
2. Persistent increase in muscle soreness, even with standard/easy to moderate effort workouts
3. Increase in Resting Heart Rate by more than 5 beats per minute
4. Slower than normal recovery of heart rate after a hard effort
5. Lingering muscle and joint pain
6. Swollen lymph nodes or "glands"
7. GI problems -- specifically, diarrhea or constipation
8. Minor abrasions heal slowly
9. "Heaviness" or "sluggish feeling" that lasts for more than 24 hours after standard workouts
10. A decrease in physical performance, particularly, during standard workouts
Emotional Changes that indicate possible overtraining:
1. Loss of joy for competition
2. Desire to quit
3. Loss of general enthusiasm
4. Easily irritable or heightened impatience or annoyed by otherwise normal interactions with others
5. Complaints of being bored
Behavioral Changes that indicate possible overtraining:
1. Loss of ability to concentrate for long periods of time
2. Loss of appetite
3. Loss of coordination
4. Loss of libido
5. Changes in sleep habits or inability to get quality sleep or unable to sleep
Identifying any number of these changes in an athlete may or may not indicate that a state of overtraining exists. However, tracking changes throughout the athlete's training can help identify whether he or she is moving towards or even already in this state, and more importantly, action can be taken early to prevent NonFunctionalOverReaching and OverTrainingSyndrome.