I know most of my blog posts are happy and motivating, but I felt overtraining syndrome was something I needed to highlight and educate individuals on. I see a lot of people at the Western Gym, who looks healthy, fit and following a training log, and other who looks like they are about to pass out on the treadmill. It is very important to be aware of overtraining syndrome, and look for signs and symptoms in yourself and your teammates or peers.
Numerous studies have documented the favourable effects of physical activity on mental health. Along with physiological adaptations to training, physical activity interventions have been shown to reduce depression and anxiety, increase self-esteem and lead to improvements in mood across a wide variety of populations. Right from the start, physical activity can promote self-esteem and positive body image in children. During pregnancy, staying active can mitigate the uncomfortable and exhausting physical and mental effects of pregnancy and parturition. With aging, physical activity helps maintain quality of life throughout the later years.
However, too much exercise may potentially develop into overtraining syndrome and severe mental distress in both high-performance athletes and physically active individuals. Simply put, “the overtraining syndrome is a condition of fatigue and underperformance, often associated with frequent infections and depression which occurs following hard training and competition. The symptoms do not resolve despite two weeks of adequate rest, and there is no other identifiable medical cause.”
Under normal training conditions, athletes or gym rats go through periods of progressive overload followed by recovery to improve performance. However, if recovery phases are inadequate or the training overload and intensity is excessive, this can lead to high fatigue and underperformance. Common psychological symptoms that present at this point include fatigue, disturbances in sleep patterns, feeling “unrefreshed”, loss of libido and competitive drive, emotional instability, weight loss, anxiety, irritability and depression.
Hence, early detection by coaches, peers and family members is essential to prevent further and potentially dangerous physiological harm or complete burn out. REST is the most important thing an athlete can do at this point. Depending on the severity of the situation, further treatment options are varied and range from: vitamins supplements and dietary changes to address any nutritional deficiencies, increased recovery days, hydration and sleep, deep tissue massage and counseling. To avoid chronic re-occurrences, coaches and individuals should incorporate cross-training methods, and optimize rest periods between workouts.
Remember you need to “listen to your body”. There is a difference between feeling the burn and being in pain, and you should NEVER feel guilty for taking a day of rest from the gym if necessary.