Overtraining Syndrome - A Practical Guide

Written by Ben Bunting: BA(Hons), PGCert. Sport & Exercise Nutrition. British Army Physical Training Instructor.


During training there is a chance that you may encounter Overtraining Syndrome (OTS). This condition is a serious problem, which causes your muscles to ache and be exhausted.

To reduce the risk of developing OTS, you should follow a systematic training plan that will help you to maintain your strength and endurance.

Symptoms of OTS 

Full-blown overtraining syndrome (OTS) is a multi-system physiological response. The symptoms include inability to perform and failure to respond to prolonged rest.

Athletes who show signs of OTS have differences in oxygen uptake, heart rate and blood lactate levels. If diagnosed, it is recommended to give the athlete at least a week of rest before continuing to train.

Runners are at higher risk for this condition than other sports. This is largely because the bulk of marathon and ultra training causes significant muscle damage.

There are several different theories on how OTS is caused. These theories include the cytokine hypothesis and the hypothalamic hypothesis.

However, there is a lack of consistent clinical markers for each of the theories. In addition, the pathophysiology of the disease is poorly understood.

One common symptom is increased systolic blood pressure. Another is progressive weight loss. If a runner has these symptoms, they should stop running.

They should also not proceed to the next stage of the symptoms until they are completely free of these symptoms for at least 24 hours.

Symptoms of full-blown overtraining syndrome in younger athletes can be very similar to those of older athletes.

It is important to note that this condition can occur without warning. For this reason, it is critical that young children be properly supervised at all times.

Young athletes who are at a high risk for OTS are (American) football players, basketball players and soccer players.

Some other factors that increase the risk of OTS are stressors from social and environmental situations.

Recognizing the earliest stage of OTS

The earliest stage of overtraining syndrome is relatively easy to recognize. However, the recovery process has not been well defined.

This can make it difficult to maintain a training program as people can be very different in terms of their susceptibility to OTS. Earlier detection is preferred because it is easier to get back into a progressive regime.

Athletes are at high risk of developing OTS when they do not rest adequately and/or do not fuel their bodies properly, this closely resembles the female athlete triad. They may also be exposed to a high stress environment. Fortunately, there are ways to reduce this risk.

Among these are effective psychological monitoring and periodization of training. There are several tests you can use to determine the earliest stage of overtraining.

For example, the MAF test is a simple test to measure the amount of exercise at a low-to-moderate heart rate. It is often considered the best diagnostic tool for recognizing the earliest stage of overtraining.

Another measure of exercise intensity is the %1RM. While this may not be an accurate measurement of exercise intensity, it does reveal a few things about a client's training.

Some clients will need a significant decrease in exercise volume. Depending on the client, additional days of rest may be needed to recover.

One of the earliest signs of overtraining is a reduction in performance. Often, athletes ignore this early sign, resulting in a false perception of full recovery.

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Adjusting overload training for recovery

Overtraining is not something to be taken lightly.

Fortunately, it can be prevented by making sure you are listening to your body and working closely with your coach and other professionals such as sports nutritionists if you are fortuanate enough to have this support.

If you're already experiencing symptoms of overtraining, then you might want to stop training altogether for a few days or weeks before you decide to get back in the game.

A well crafted recovery plan includes a variety of components, from proper rest to good nutrition. Some of these may be more important than others, depending on the specific needs of your client.

Trainer perspective

As a trainer, you need to be aware of the various modalities available in order to help your client achieve a full recovery.

The best way to gauge which one works for you is to observe your client during a workout. Alternatively, you can ask him or her what the best way to go about increasing loading is.

There are many types of overload, including relative, absolute, and progressive. Relative overload means the load is normal, while absolute and progressive overload is more akin to lifting more weight.

You can even increase the load by simply adding more weight or changing the reps.

There is a lot of debate about the best method of adjusting the weight and the number of repetitions, oe even the distance or timings of a run for example.

It all depends on your training goals. Generally, you'll see the best results by systematically changing your schemes.

Creatine kinase (CK) is a good indicator of overtraining

Creatine kinase (CK) is a natural component of muscle damage. A high concentration of this enzyme can be a sign of overtraining, a condition that increases the risk of injury, fatigue and cramps.

A recent study investigated the role of CK in overreaching. In order to better understand the potential significance of this biomarker, researchers measured plasma CK and a host of other hematological parameters during and after intensified training.

They discovered that the level of CK was elevated during ITP. This rise was statistically significant. Interestingly, the rise was not due to muscle trauma but was instead caused by membrane peroxidation, which leaks CK from damaged muscle cells into the circulation.

The authors concluded that while a CK-related increase in serum CK was not surprising, the actual rise in CK levels was not.

Further, the CK-related change was modest, and it was unlikely that a simple increase in CK would provide a clear cut indication of overreaching.

Overreaching is a complex condition that can cause a variety of effects on the human body.

Although most cases can be prevented, there are some cases where overreaching can lead to long term health consequences.

It is important to prevent overreaching by ensuring optimal nutrition and rest, as well as monitoring the symptoms.

An overtraining syndrome can be identified by an imbalance between the amount of time an athlete spends in a fatigue-producing state and the time spent in a recovery-enhancing state.

This can be a significant issue for athletes competing in endurance sports, and may not allow enough time to recover.

Periodization is a strategy for reducing the risk of OTS

Periodization is a strategy for reducing the risk of overtraining syndrome (OTS). This can occur when training is performed at high intensity without sufficient recovery time. It is also an approach to improve performance and reduce injury risks.

Overtraining can cause muscle soreness, fatigue, and a reduction in performance. In addition, it can cause immune suppression, which can lead to slow healing, flu-like symptoms, bruising, and an increase in illness rates.

To decrease the risk of OTS, you need to make sure you have a comprehensive program of recovery, sleep hygiene, and nutrition.

You should keep a detailed training log that includes your daily activities and your mood. Also, you should use common sense measures to prevent and detect OTS, such as keeping weight, heart rate, and RPE.

Some researchers have even found that incorporating periodization into a training regimen can help you build muscle and enhance your overall mental health.

However, it is important to note that periodization is a complex approach that requires special knowledge and skill.

There are three main types of periodization: linear, flexible, and reverse. The first type is designed for endurance athletes.

Using this method, the trainer gradually builds up intensity and volume, then works to decrease the load and volume.

The second type is similar to the first, but allows for more frequent changes in intensity and volume. These types of workouts can be effective when you are looking for variety.


Overtraining Syndrome (OTS) is a condition that can affect anyone who participates in an intense athletic training program.

The condition can lead to overuse injuries and can also be a sign of other, more serious conditions.

Various studies have found that overtraining can have a number of physiological and psychological effects.

For example, it can lead to rhabdomyolysis, a rare but potentially fatal condition that occurs when the muscle fibers rupture.

It is also often accompanied by depression and anxiety, and is often linked to other health conditions.

Another possible symptom is an increase in performance anxiety. This can manifest itself in the form of a feeling of fatigue and total loss of motivation. These are all signs that the body needs rest.

OTS is a complex clinical disorder. There are several etiological theories, including an autonomic imbalance, low energy availability, central fatigue, and glycogen depletion. However, the optimum approach to managing the condition is still unclear.

One of the most important steps to taking care of an overtrained athlete is to monitor their progress.

Various methods are available, from monitoring their training volume to conducting serial sport-specific performance trials.

While these techniques may be the best way to detect early signs of overtraining, they may not be the right solution for every athlete.

Other important steps to take are to prevent overtraining from occurring in the first place, and to ensure an adequate recovery. Getting plenty of sleep, rest, and proper nutrition is an important part of the recovery process.

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