Whether you’re a weekend warrior or an elite athlete, you should always be cautious of overtraining. Many people make the mistake in either training too little or too much. When you have a high goal to reach – like running a marathon or losing 70 pounds – it’s tempting to hit the gym as often as you possibly can. However, this is detrimental to not only your training and performance but also your health, resulting in overtraining injuries.
Many people are familiar with overuse injuries. Overtraining injuries, on the other hand, are similar in kind to overuse injuries. In fact, the terms can almost be used interchangeable as all overtraining injuries are from overuse. However, there is one key difference between the two types of injuries.
Overuse injuries can happen to anyone, even those athletes who are training properly. Overtraining injuries, however, are caused by one thing – too much stress caused by training too much without adequate rest.
Musculoskeletal injuries as well as general health issues can cause overtraining. Called overtraining syndrome, it includes both overuse injuries and other physiological symptoms. Symptoms can include increased resting heart rate, decreased appetite and digestive issues, extreme fatigue, and constant soreness, among others. Usually, overtraining exhibits itself in this way before injury sets in.
Defined, overtraining is the result of working too hard with inadequate rest. It’s caused by increasing exercise intensity too soon, not taking enough time to recover, or too much stress. Essentially, working too hard causes overtraining.
“But in order to improve, I need to push myself,” you’re probably thinking.
Absolutely. The only way to improve your fitness level is to, indeed, push yourself. However, every person has their limits. With recognizing your limits, you’ll not only avoid overtraining but you actually improve your performance and strong and steady pace. It will be consistent, which is what your body needs to grow stronger.
Although hard to spot early on and diagnose, you should be on the constant lookout for overtraining signs and symptoms, such as sleep problems and fatigue. Being able to spot overtraining will prevent injuries from setting in and completely derailing your training.
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Like overuse injuries, overtraining injuries are caused by too much stress to the body. Both types of injuries occur over a period of time, making them harder to catch before it’s too late. In fact, overtraining injuries are really just overuse injuries. However, there is a key difference between the two. Overuse injuries can occur even if someone is properly training. Simply put, overuse injuries are from repetition. They can also be caused by improper form, muscle imbalance, and poor mobility. Overuse injuries can also plague someone because of their physiology and natural body alignment.
Overtraining injuries, on the other hand, are caused by both repetition and other factors. They are not so much a type of injury by themselves but rather differentiated from overuse because of the cause – overtraining. Fatigue, lack of nutrition and rest, and even illness can all contribute to overtraining injuries.
Both overuse and overtraining injuries are caused by too much stress to a particular area. The way our bodies become stronger is through physical stress. It’s the result of a physiological process called remodeling, involving the breakdown and buildup of tissue. However, if too much breakdown occurs with not enough buildup, it results in an injury.
Improper training is the number one cause of overuse injuries. When it’s due to too much training, it’s called an overtraining injury. Usually, these injuries are the result of doing too much too soon – you increase intensity too fast. Intensity includes speed, duration, and frequency. Sprinting for two minutes can just as easily end in shin splints as jogging slowly for 30 minutes if you’re not ready for that level of activity.
Examples Of Overuse Injuries Caused By Overtraining
- Shin splints
- Tennis elbow
- Swimmer’s shoulder
- Runner’s knee
- Jumper’s knee
Diagnosis And Treatment
Unfortunately, it’s fairly difficult to diagnose an overuse injury before it’s too late. This is mostly because most athletes wait until it’s too painful to function before they get it checked out. However, physical therapists or orthopedists diagnose such injuries through physical examinations and evaluations. Sports medicine specialists will consider your sport and assess your movement to determine the cause of the injury. Was it due to alignment? Biomechanics? Improper form? Or, was it due to too much exercise and training?
Treatment will depend on the cause. However, usually, an overtraining injury will be treated with cutting back on your training. Decreasing intensity, adding in more recovery days, or doing shorter workouts will help you recover from such an injury. To avoid it in the future, however, you’ll have to reevaluate your training and make sure that you recognize your physical limitations.