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by Thomas Kurz
Overtraining is an unplanned and prolonged stagnation or lowering of an athlete’s sport-specific fitness resulting from overstressing the athlete. Overtraining manifests itself in all functions of the athlete’s body–not just select muscle groups or other organs–and most prominent are symptoms of dysfunction of the central nervous system, autonomic nervous system, and endocrine system.
Overtraining is an imbalance, expressed differently in different systems. Looking at the central nervous system, overtraining is a result of an imbalance between stimulating and inhibiting the central nervous system. Looking at the autonomous nervous system, overtraining is a result of an imbalance between activity of the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous system. Looking at the endocrine system, overtraining is a result of an imbalance between releases of anabolic and catabolic hormones. Looking at muscle fibers, overtraining is a result of an imbalance between stimulation of slow-twitch (aerobic) fibers and fast-twitch (anaerobic) fibers. An excess of anaerobic efforts overdevelops anaerobic fast-twitch fibers at the expense of aerobic slow-twitch fibers and causes excessive production or poor removal of lactic acid. A too high volume of aerobic endurance training may cause overdevelopment of the mitochondria in the muscle cell at the expense of myofibrils, its contractile elements.
To prevent overtraining, use signs of excellent health to guide the training process. React to the first signs of less than optimal function. Don’t wait for symptoms of overtraining. Assuming that all is well if symptoms of overtraining are not present and waiting for those symptoms before correcting the training process is stupid. It means deciding to get way behind the events before reacting. It is like an MD who waits to begin treatment until symptoms of a clinical disease are present. When you see signs of overtraining, it means your control of the training process and your common sense have failed.
Since overtraining is most commonly caused by doing too much, control of the training process–so athletes do not do more than what is healthy for them– is the key to preventing overtraining. Rational sports training is about getting optimal results with minimal effort. All Stadion publications apply this concept, to get more with less: Flexibility Express, Gold Medal Mental Workout, Explosive Power and Jumping Ability for All Sports, Acrobatic Tumbling: From Rolls to Handsprings and Somersaults, and others. After all, the motto of my book Science of Sports Training: How to Plan and Control Training for Peak Performance is “Training is efficient if the highest sports result is achieved with the least expense of time and energy.” And in that book you will find all you need to know about overtraining and control of the training process.
This article is based on the book Science of Sports Training. Get it now and have all of the info—not just the crumbs!
If you have any questions on training you can post them at Stadion’s Sports and Martial Arts Training Discussion Forum