By Daniel Moffatt-Martin
As a coach who works with both professional athletes and the general population, it is not uncommon to have to crack the whip and try to keep people motivated. But what happens when someone is 100% motivated and even borderline obsessed with achieving their goals that they need the reigns pulled back to keep them healthy? This is also something I see a lot of and must monitor very closely.
Overtraining is a huge problem when it comes to athletes. I see it a lot among the general population too and it is just as important to monitor those guys, but young careers can be cut short very quickly if the young athletes aren’t stopped and educated straight away. How do I know this? Because this exact thing happened to me…
I played baseball at a state and National level from the time I was 12 years old until I was 17. During that time I was playing and training 7 days per week between my club, local representative team, State team and training for National selection. I had 4 different coaches all wanting me to do their training schedule and I was also a very self-motivated young athlete so I would do my own extra work on top of all that. It’s no surprise that after a few years of this schedule my body began to break down and when I was right on the cusp of National selection I sustained a career ending injury.
This is still a common scenario with young athletes but I can say, coaches and trainers are a lot better educated on the subject. So, what causes over training injuries and burn out?
We all know that to progress to a new level, we must place a new stimulus on the body, be it strength, conditioning, mobility or any area within the fitness spectrum. Progression in training is all about adaptation. Without a higher stress placed on the body, there is no new adaptation to be met, and therefore we simply maintain the level we are at.
Most of us, especially athletes know this and how it works, and therefore it is easy to start to think that “the more I train, the better I get!” Well, yes and no.
You see, when we train we break our body down. Muscular tissue, energy storage, and nervous system function (controlled by our brains) are all now fatigued. So that’s actually a negative thing for the body. The positive adaptation comes when we rest! After the work out, our body begins to repair itself, and it’s incredibly good at protecting itself so it repairs itself a little stronger than it was before.
Then, we train again after it has finished repairing, and because it has become stronger, greater stimulus is needed to break down the muscle again and cycle back through the process. And this, (in a brief, basic version) is how progress in training is achieved.
So, for those people who are in the mindset of more is better and train every single day or twice a day are actually in constant state of “broken down” or catabolic. Below is a diagram of the fitness fatigue model that highlights exactly how this works.
As you can see in the diagram, when we begin training and enter fatigue our performance drops below the level we were originally at. It isn’t until the rest period after training that we begin to recover and enter a new level of performance and actually gain the benefit of the training block. So you see, the people who are in the frame of mind that “more is better” and continue to train day after day for weeks on end, never actually receive the benefit of their training and will progressively get worse. Not to mention the injuries that they place themselves at higher risk of, due to the fact the athlete is training with broken down muscle tissue that is very susceptive to tearing and strains.
So, when it comes to training and programming the statement of “work smarter not harder” is very much the case. More young athletes and general populations need to be further educated on how the system of training and positive adaptation works, and hopefully we can start to reduce injuries and break through a few barriers of past, outdated thinking.
For information about how to monitor your weekly training loads and have peace of mind that you are balancing your work outs with correct recovery times, send us a message and connect with one of our coaches!