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The training loads for an elite athlete can be taxing, to say the least.  Work too little and you won’t get the results you want, work too hard and there is chance something will break.  It’s difficult to understand how the body can cope with the kind of mass training that we demand of it. So the question becomes: 

How do you know where the line is?

  • Listen to your body – Obviously you cannot stop training for every ache or pain that manifests itself, but you can be aware of when pain is “acceptable” and when to seek medical help.
  • Understand how long it takes for your body to adapt to greater training loads.  Basic strength changes in one area of the body take a minimum of six weeks, tightness in the tendons and connective tissue takes three months, and bone can take six to twelve months to fully adapt.
  • Know the symptoms of overtraining or burnout – Extreme tiredness on a regular basis, diminished or no motivation, negative or cynical attitude towards your sport, increased pain in the joints or limbs, weakened immune system, among others.

What can I do to prevent overtraining?

  • Let yourself know it’s OK to take breaks, you will see better results if you allow your body to recover.
  • Cross train – Include some easy workouts in your training, varying your training also helps to prevent overuse injuries.
  • Get adequate sleep – This is big one, many elite athletes have early starts and busy schedules so it can be easy to convince yourself that losing a few hours of sleep doesn’t make much of a difference.  In fact, just two days of inadequate sleep can affect performance, motivation, focus and energy levels.

There are many talented athletes who, in order to make themselves better, push their bodies too hard and end up in a cycle of injury and frustration.  With large training loads, injury is almost inevitable, but knowing your body and knowing what to look for is a step in the right direction for injury prevention.

References from the SIRC Collection:

1. Bales J, Bales K. Training on a Knife’s Edge: How to Balance Triathlon Training to Prevent Overuse Injuries. Sports Medicine & Arthroscopy Review. December 2012;20(4):214-216.
2. Kellmann M. Preventing overtraining in athletes in high-intensity sports and stress/recovery monitoring. Scandinavian Journal Of Medicine & Science In Sports. October 2, 2010;20:95-102.
3. Lemyre P, Roberts G, Stray-Gundersen J. Motivation, overtraining, and burnout: Can self-determined motivation predict overtraining and burnout in elite athletes?. European Journal Of Sport Science. June 2007;7(2):115-126.
4. McKune A, Semple S, Peters-Futre E. ACUTE EXERCISE-INDUCED MUSCLE INJURY. Biology Of Sport. March 2012;29(1):3-10.
5. Overtraining. Cross Connections. August 2011;:7.
6. Wallden M. The Yin & Yang of rehabilitation & performance. Journal Of Bodywork & Movement Therapies. April 2012;16(2):258-264.

The information presented in SIRC blogs and SIRCuit articles is accurate and reliable as of the date of publication. Developments that occur after the date of publication may impact the current accuracy of the information presented in a previously published blog or article.