overtraining warning signs

Overtraining warning signs - The big question is: how far can you push an athlete's training before breakdown occurs?

The famous American swim coach, Mark Schubert, said some years ago that the greatest athletes are the ones who can train 'the farthest, the fastest, for the longest'. We know from the recent successes of the Chinese that they are achieving massive fitness gains. Every athlete and coach knows that if we are to do well we must be at least as fit as our competitors, which is why training demands have become ever greater over the years.

The main problem for a coach is to know just how much to ask of an athlete without pushing him or her into a state of failing adaptation or overtraining. I am sure that most athletes arrive at this state at some time in their careers. The trick is to be able to recognise this before chronic fatigue sets in and to allow for recovery and adaptation. More and more help is now available from sports science and sports medicine and we should make full use of this. In this country, however, the reality is that there are few sports scientists actually committed to individual training programmes and most coaches have to fall back on their own instincts.

I believe there are certain rules of thumb that all coaches should be familiar with.

1. Coach and athlete must have confidence in one another and must be able to discuss freely the training programme and how the athlete feels.

2. I make extensive use of heart rates. Early-morning pulses can give some indication of problems if a rise of 3-5 beats over normal occurs. I recommend the checking of pulse rates after the preliminary warmup routine. In a fit athlete, a greatly elevated pulse after moderate exercise is something to worry about. 3. I look for certain 'danger signs' in my swimmers. Those who look miserable or fed-up when they arrive for training; those who are more irritable than usual; those who have two or three bad training sessions in a row - all these should give cause for concern. The coach needs to be calm and reassuring in such situations and should appreciate that to back off now and then can allow adaptation and recovery without compromising fitness. Indeed, if you don't, you may defeat the whole object - the next stage may well be that the athlete becomes ill and you then have no choice but to back off.

4. Training sessions must be carefully planned and monitored. They must be specific to the needs of the athlete in terms of the energy requirement of the event, and we should montior the intensity of all sets by the use of heart rates and/or lactate testing. Recovery and adaptation periods should be planned on a individual basis and we should not overlook the additional fatigue caused by competition, travel, and the demands of the athlete's day-to-day living. This produces a complex balancing act between the need to improve speed, strength and endurance while at the same time ensuring that the athlete can adapt to the training demands.

5. Where help is available from sports science and sports medicine, coaches should make use of it. Regular blood testing can show up many problems and lactate testing is a good indicator of training intensities and adaptation. Good nutrition is also vital to ensure that glycogen stores are maintained at a high level and that the athlete doesn't become dehydrated during training or competition. The British Olympic Asociation is now doing more and more work in this area, and good support is available from the various BOA advisory groups which now meet regularly to discuss all aspects of sports science and medicine.

overtraining warning signs

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Tagged in Injury & Overtraining
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