Progressive increases in training stimulus are necessary for
improvements in endurance events (Morgan, et al, 1987). Athletes
strive for positive adaptations following training overload (Silva
1990). They typically recuperate within 12-24 hours after an
intense training session. However, an athlete may not have sufficient
time to fully recuperate after chronic bouts of training (Morgan,
et al, 1987). Overtraining is thought to be caused by training
loads that are too demanding of the athlete's ability to adapt
(Murphy & Fleck, 1990; Silva 1990). It occurs when the body's
adaptive mechanisms repetitively fail to cope with chronic training
stress (Silva 1990). This results in performance deterioration
instead of performance improvement (Morgan, et al, 1987; Murphy
& Fleck, 1990, Silva 1990).
lead to physiological and psychomotor retardation, chronic fatigue,
depressed appetite, weight loss, insomnia, decreased libido,
muscle soreness and elevated depression and tension. In addition,
other metabolic, hormonal, muscular, hypothalamic, and cardiovascular
changes often accompany the overtrained state (Morgan, et al,
1987). Overtraining is characterized by negative affective states
such as anxiety, depression, fatigue, anger, lack of self-confidence,
and decreased vigor (Murphy & Fleck, 1990).
Authors have expressed differing views in terminology when
describing overtraining and its affiliated states. For example,
Silva (1990) describes progressive stages; staleness, overtraining,
and burnout. In contrast, Morgan, et al (1987) suggests overtraining
can lead to staleness, whereas overtraining reflects a process
and staleness represents an outcome, or product (Morgan, et al,
1987). Despite the continuing debate of semantics, it is recommended
to keep the terminology simple when speaking to an athlete unfamiliar
with the subject.
Not surprisingly, rest has been suggested to alleviate many
of these symptoms caused by overtraining. If this is not practical,
tapering had been shown to improve psychological states if sufficient
time is allocated (Morgan, et al, 1987).
Other methods to help avoid staleness, which can lead to overtraining
include mini break periods, occasional changes in routine, and
placing less pressure on athletes, particularly if incorporated
in the later part of the season. Severe overtraining and burnout
may require a long recovery period and should be expected to
be slow (Silva 1990).
The athlete should be informed that staleness, overtraining
and burnout are all commonly experienced during a collegiate
athlete's "career" (Silva 1990). This may be especially
true for a young athlete who may be thought of as an "overachiever"
When the athlete resumes training, modifications to the athlete's
workout may help prevent future reoccurrences of overtraining.
The athlete's training should only include stress(es) similar
to the metabolic pathways and motor skills needed for that particular
sport. All cross training should be secondary during off season
training and may even be eliminated during seasonal training.
For example, an athlete primarily requiring power or speed in
their sport may be compromising performance training for cardiovascular
endurance, particularly during the sports season. Auxiliary training
should be abbreviated or scheduled less often to decrease the
occurrence of psychological staleness, physical burnout, and
ultimately psychological burnout.
Overtraining had been erroneously described as an absolute
state. In actuality, overtraining or any of its related states
should be viewed as a continuum; from optimally recuperated to
extremely overtrained. It is conceivable that an athlete may
be slightly overtrained yet still achieve only modest gains in
performance. Obviously, the more desirable situation would be
optimal recuperation and consequently greater gains.