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By Aurélien Apport


A training session is based on the overload principle. At the beginning of your session you feel fresh and full of energy but as your training goes on you will feel more and more fatigued as you push your body out of its current fitness level. The overload principle can be associated to the level of stress you impose on your body during a workout; no pain, no gain, right? It works … only if you have an adequate recovery following your furious training. It is a fine and individual line between being in form and being overtrained. It all depends on how good you plan your training and how well you know and listen to your body. That’s why more can be less.

Overtraining isn’t a term that belongs to elite athletes. Amateurs are as much and maybe more at risk of being in an overtrained state. Elite athletes train daily and often more than once, they have to perform at their best all the time and are under a lot of pressure. However, amateurs train hard, too; they go to work every day and, perhaps most importantly, don’t have a team to monitor every facet of their preparation. With a bit of knowledge and experience you will probably reduce the risk of ngative adaptation in your sport life. Negative adaptation leads to a negative response to the training stimulus that can potentially lead to  transitory or chronic overtraining.

What is overtraining?

Performances are a result that come from the synergy of different  factors such as genetic, physical  and technical training, food, recovery techniques, sleep, psychology, social and professional environment. The main purpose of training is to create physical and physiological adaptation by using stimulus. It’s the training effect that includes workout fatigue and recovery.

To create positive adaptation you have to put your body in an unusual  stressed state – the overloading principle. The overload can be neuromuscular, hormonal, metabolical or psychological. To do so you vary the load, the intensity, the length and the frequency of the session on a predefined period of time: that’s the periodisation. But as soon as the recovery mismatches with the workout, the performance will decline if the balance is not quickly restored and the vicious overtraining state will appear.

An overtraining state at its early stage will be transitory. In this case the fatigue increases and the performance drops. With an adequate recovery the clinical symptoms will disappear after one or two weeks.

When overtraining continues, side effects are more pronounced and a transitory state becomes chronic. Performances are significantly affected and other clinical symptoms become much more obvious than in a transitory overtraining situation. In this case a few weeks or months can be necessary to return to normal performance levels. Unfortunately it is close to impossible to see precisely when the threshold of simple fatigue stops and when the overtraining starts. Performance drop is often wrongly interpreted; sportsmen always think it is due to a lack of training and that training harder will change it. Of course more training will accentuate the unbalanced situation, that’s why it’s so important to understand.

What are the symptoms?

·         Performances will be altered;

·         Muscular soreness that stays for longer than usual;

·         Unusual fatigue;

·         Elevated and/or non-regular heart rate;

·         Decreased appetite;

·         Insomnia;

·         Mood swings;

·         Constant thirst;

·         Loss of concentration;

·         Overused injuries;

·         Abnormal urine colouration;

·         Depression;

·         Loss of self-esteem;

·         Immune system deficiency; and

·         ‘Burnt out’ sensation.

This list is non-exhaustive and those symptoms will be more or less predominant for different people. The recovery program after training or after competing will vary depending on your speciality. Contact sports will benefit with  an ice bath straight after intense training or games. Marathon runners are more susceptible to respiratory infection and they can be vulnerable until one week after the race, so it’s important for them to recognise this and monitor it closely.

Try using different methods and monitor the benefits on your body and how you feel, and step by step you will develop the best system for you. A good workout followed by an adequate recovery will lead to a phase of supercompensation. Happy days! But rest for too long and all your progress will disappear. Good timing is indispensable to maximise the training effect!

Different factors or mistakes that can lead to overtraining:

-      A bad weekly repetition of training volume can be damaging to recovery;

-      A lack of sleep due to bad time management or a busy life (social or family);

-      Non-sufficient or inadequate food intake compared to exercise needs. The re-synthesis of the muscular glycogen reserve, for example, is a key point for a good recovery;

-      Inadequate hydration; and

-      Stress from professional life, sponsors, deadlines or even from family on top of the training volume can slow down the recovery process.

How to prevent and/or monitor overtraining :

-      Use a heart rate monitor or get into the habit of checking your pulse just after an intense effort and two minutes after to control your capacity of recovery;

-      Use the FITTE principe : Frequency, Intensity, Type of training, Time and level of Enjoyment;

-      Plan your training in advance, not only the content but also when you will train in accordance to your obligation;

-      Use a notebook that includes not only the FITTE details but also the date, weather, location, time and length of your workout, chrono, heart rate, sensations and your body’s post-workout respnose. It helps to monitor your progress and have facts relevant to your current fitness level;

-      Plan your recovery and write it in your notebook. You can, for example, use massage, hydrotherapy and/or acupuncturep;

-      Don’t be stubborn, especially in case of injury. Ask a specialist what kind of exercise you can still do while injured;

-      Avoid monotony to duck the loss of motivation. Change your habits, do some cross-training and try new activities;

-      Don’t underestimate yourself and don’t try to copy an elite athlete’s program either!;

-      Listen to your body and your close family, friends or coach that know you;

-      Avoid major events or competition in a short period of time; and

-      Find or create your own fitness test to monitor your level and progress all year long.

More can definitely become less and ruin months of awesome effort. The process is complex and includes a lot of factors and symptoms that can be wrongly interpreted. On top of that, each of us has a different adaptive response to the stress created by exercising. An overtraining state is, of course, reversible but it can have many negative effects, not only on your performance, but also on your professional and personal life which is much more critical. Athletes that have the higher risk of overtraining are those who train without any program or plan. The best way to evolve and avoid injuries and overtraining is to know what you want to achieve and how you will do it. ‘No pain, no gain’ is ultimately a good leitmotiv … if you stick to a plan.

Aurélien Apport

Aurélien Apport is a French elite athlete and international judo competitor with over 25 years of practice. He has a black belt in Judo and Jujitsu, has a Sports Science degree in Movement Analysis and is a certified personal trainer and coach. Aurélien trains both general fitness and high level athletes and has been doing so in various countries around the world for 15 years. Aurélien works as a personal trainer at Bondi Platinum Fitness First. He specialises in martial arts, kickboxing, strength and conditioning, Olympic lifting, weight loss and nutrition. Follow Aurélien at https://fr-fr.facebook.com/aurelienapportpersonaltrainer. Instagram: Duofitfood.


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