Overtraining Syndrome (OTS) is a common, but often misunderstood topic among athletes…and medical professionals. Because of the nature of this syndrome, it is worth investigative study.
As a result of several recently released peer-reviewed studies, scientists have come to a few important conclusions regarding overtraining. If you train hard, are planning a marathon, or spend a good deal of your time in the gym, this information is critical to your health and happiness.
Overreaching Isn’t Bad—Until It Is
For starters, recently reviewed studies show that successful training does involve some overreaching. After studying hundreds of athletes, researchers came to the conclusion that athletes can experience short-term performance improvement without long-term psychological or physiological symptoms. Known as ‘functional overreaching’, this strategy can actually lead to improved performance with enough recovery time. Avoiding inadequate recovery is a must to avoid the damaging side-effects of overtraining.
For athletes training to increase performance, increasing training loads is the only way to achieve the desired results. However, these increased loads are only tolerated by the body when proper rest is in place. Scientists recommend athletes view rest as a part of the training process, not something to work around.
When overreaching goes overboard, and is coupled with an additional stressor, OTS can result. In the end, overreaching that is followed by the appropriate amount of rest can increase performance—which is precisely what athletes are looking for.
Finding Balance is Important
All athletes go through bouts of minor fatigue and severe reductions in performance thanks to the training process. Problems develop when training stress and recovery aren’t in balance. These researchers stress balancing rest with training for the best performance, physical and physiological results.
Recent research shows that OTS may be caused by systemic inflammation and effects on the central nervous system leading to central fatigue, depressed mood, and neurohormonal changes. All of this can only occur when the body is placed under extreme stress for extended periods of time. Failure to find balance between training and rest causes a failure of the body’s most important systems.
Unfortunately, there is no hard evidence to show whether overreaching precedes overtraining, nor evidence to show that overtraining symptoms are more severe than overreaching symptoms. This in turn has caused some confusion regarding the key markers for overreaching and overtraining within the sports and athletic field. Some researchers are calling for more critical analysis of research before markers are proposed.
More Information Is Needed
Despite research studies, OTS as a clinical diagnosis is typically defined by investigative research on overreached and not overtrained athletes. In most cases, overreaching develops as a result of intense training and is generally seen as ‘normal’ for extreme athletes, and takes approximately 2 weeks to recover from. Recovering from overtraining, on the other hand, can take months to years. This distinction hasn’t gone unnoticed, but is largely misunderstood by the scientific community.
Your Take Away
Developing a training program that incorporates adequate rest is the first step towards better performance and finding balance. While the jury is still out on what defines each of these syndromes, playing it safe with plenty of resting and recovery time is the best plan of action.
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