Overtraining syndrome is a condition brought on by regular, excessive, exercise
bouts (high in volume and intensity) which reduces long term physical performance.
This should be differentiated from normal short term loss of performance
illustrated directly after most bouts of exercise.
Symptoms of overtraining include disturbed sleeping patterns, loss
of appetite, depression, loss of muscle mass, an increased resting heart
rate and chronic reduction of workrate and performance.
What causes overtraining?
The main factor which tips individuals into a state of overtraining is thought
to be insufficient recovery time between bouts of intense exercise.
To become fitter, stronger and leaner we must progressively train harder.
However, we can only grow or improve performance after sufficient rest and
recuperation. The body must have sufficient rest to allow it to grow and
adapt so that exercise at a similar relative intensity becomes easier -
a process called supercompensation.
If the rest period is too short then the body may not have had time to go
through this supercompensation stage due, in part, to imbalances in hormonal
levels (elevate levels of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline) which
occurs during high intensity exercise. High levels of the aforementioned
hormones don't allow the body to facilitate a state of rebuilding.
Another factor which contributes to a state of overtraining is the psychological
stress place on the mind of the exerciser or the athlete. Insufficient rest
will, as stated, means that the body maintains elevated levels of stress
hormones, hormones which can lead to anxiety and depression.
The best method of combating against the threat of overtraining is to engage
in a state of physical inactivity, or intersperse high intensity exercise
bouts with low intensity exercise (50 - 60% of max).
It is also important that the body has sufficient levels of fuel to exercise,
and as such the diet should be sufficient in complex carbohydrates (potatoes,
pasta, rice, cereals etc).
Perhaps the most important aspect of all is rest and sleep. Exercisers and
athletes alike should take time out from exercise (1 - 2 days rest each
week at least) and they should get adequate sleep each evening (6 - 8 hours
of unbroken sleep per night). Both sufficient rest and sleep will contribute
greatly to reduce elevated cortisol and adrenaline levels.