Overtraining: Common Signs And How To Bounce Back

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Last Updated on 18/12/2023 by Kriss

Have you ever felt like you were going nowhere even though you trained very hard? Did you lose motivation and feel sore all the time? The reason behind that might be overtraining. This condition can cause progress to plateau or even decline as effort and intensity continue.

Today, we will discuss overtraining, its symptoms, and how to overcome it.

Let’s dive right in!

Understanding Overtraining Syndrome

Overtraining is a well-known issue across all athletes in every sport – not only badminton players. The main symptoms of overtraining syndrome are:

  • Persistent muscle soreness

  • Mood disturbances

  • Feeling burnt out or stale

  • Hormonal imbalances

  • Weakened immunity

Man holding his sore leg.
Consistent soreness is one of the many symptoms of overtraining.

Also evident are signs such as decreased enthusiasm for training sessions accompanied by boredom. It is a condition that can be hard to identify at first glance, so checking in with a professional is essential. But overtraining is more than just feeling sore for a couple of days after a hard training session. It takes more time to recover from overtraining compared to regular overreaching.

The Difference Between Overreaching And Overtraining

It’s important to understand the subtle but significant differences between overreaching and overtraining. Both terms are used to describe conditions where an athlete has pushed beyond their physical limits, but they differ in terms of severity, duration, and potential impact on performance.

Overreaching is generally considered a short-term reaction to intense training. It’s a state of fatigue and underperformance that occurs when an athlete has pushed themselves hard for a period of time, often in preparation for a specific event or competition. However, when properly managed, overreaching can actually lead to enhanced performance.

This concept is used in cycling and other endurance sports, but I haven’t seen it done like this in badminton. However, it is pretty common to go through some very hard training sessions leading up to important tournaments, followed by a short break (1-2 weeks).

The body, once it has had sufficient time to rest and recover, can bounce back stronger than before. It’s a hard balancing act and one that requires careful monitoring and adjustment of training loads to ensure that the athlete does not slip into a state of overtraining.

Overtraining, on the other hand, is a much more serious condition. It’s the result of prolonged, excessive training loads without adequate rest and recovery periods. Unlike overreaching, overtraining leads to a long-term decrease in performance that can take weeks, months, or even years to fully recover from (source).

In short, overreaching and overtraining each represents two conditions that occur after training overload. One is often a short-term effect that is wanted, the other one is a serious condition that takes a long time to recover from.

Functional Overreaching and Non-Functional Overreaching

Overreaching can also be split into two categories. Functional and non-functional overreaching. The difference between the two is small – but significant.

Functional Overreaching (FOR) is a wanted effect, the training stimulus is enough to develop your skills and body, but you can also fully recover in time for the next planned workout session.

Non-Functional Overreaching (NFOR) on the other hand, means that the stimulus is too much, but doesn’t prevent you from sticking to your schedule. However, you will not be fully recovered for the next session. Repeated NFOR can eventually lead to overtraining.

The Dangers of Excessive Exercise

Exercise is great for your body – that’s what every doctor tells you. But there are limits to that. Excessive exercise can lead to overtraining and it’s important to listen to your body and not constantly push through the pain.

Overtrained players may experience changes like elevated resting heart rate or blood pressure, weight fluctuations, disordered eating habits, and even digestive problems.

Signs of this include modifications to the skin, hair, and nails. Back-to-back extreme training sessions may even induce recurrent episodes of chronic fatigue alongside certain kinds of injuries referred to as ‘overuse’ injuries such as stress fractures, shin splints & plantar fasciitis, etc., which sets you back even more.

Another serious effect for female athletes is amenorrhea where menstruation will be absent consecutively for more than 6 months resulting in reduced bone mineral density leading to potential osteoporosis.

Knowing when you’ve gone too far is important. In general, we support any kind of physical activity, but it is important to keep a balance.

Balancing Training Load and Recovery

Finding the balance between your training load and recovery can be the perfect protection from overtraining syndrome. It is necessary to ensure you have sufficient rest periods while also balancing out the workload (volume) as well as the level of intensity for it all to work effectively.

A lot of this also depends on the activity you do. Badminton is a high-impact sport. That means the body cannot handle multiple hard sessions in a row. This study for example found, that intense sports training like badminton can lead to enthesitis, an inflammation of areas where tendons or ligaments attach to the bone. Cycling on the other hand goes easy on your joints so you can spend more time on the bike compared to time on the court.

Training Volume

The key to successful training is in managing the volume and intensity of workouts. This requires close monitoring with careful adjustments that are tailored to individual capabilities and goals. Training frequency, intensity, duration, and type all play a role when creating an effective plan.

Most pro badminton players have two training sessions per day – but that doesn’t mean each session is them playing on the court. Weight lifting, cardio sessions, and technique training are all part of a balanced training.

Also Read: 4 Complementary Sports You Can Do As a Badminton Player.

To keep track of progress made during exercises, it’s wise to create a training log that records important information regarding workloads over time. This will help you accurately pinpoint what works best while avoiding overtaxing your body too soon or on different levels than necessary.

You can log the perceived exertion, average heart rate, and if possible even lactate measurements. It’s important to measure things like heart rate and lactate as well as your rating of perceived exertion (RPE) because numbers can lie from time to time.

Man tracking is heart rate on a smartwatch
Tracking your heart rate during workouts is a good start to finding a good training balance.

You can easily spot trends and take rest periods when needed. Note that measurements come with their own challenges like inaccuracies. You can read more about these in this paper titled “Measuring Training Load in Sports“.

Having an effective approach to handling your training sessions should not only prevent potential injury but the better documented our exercise habits become, the more consistently good results we can achieve without putting unnecessary stress on ourselves!

Overall maintaining optimal volume goes hand-in-hand with ensuring long-term health benefits derived from physical activity such as increased strength & improved cardiovascular endurance among others…keep these factors at heart whenever deciding how often / hard to train while always closely evaluating said measures and listening to your own body.

Intensity

The level of intensity in exercise is determined by the degree of exertion used. High-intensity exercises have numerous benefits to the body, such as increased calorie burn, and development of muscle mass.

This can be monitored using heart rate, lactate, and perceived exertion (Borg RPE Scale). However, excessive intense exercise can cause fatigue. It’s important to balance high-intensity workouts with low-intensity activities to ensure enough recovery time.

For instance, two intense multi-shuttle badminton sessions per week might be mixed with light cycling, some technique drills, and light footwork. You shouldn’t have high-intensity exercise every day without any rest or low-intensity sessions.

Rest and Recovery

To effectively adjust to training stress, rest and recovery must be a fixed part of any training plan. By introducing intervals of relaxation as well as active methods used for replenishing muscles, overtraining can be avoided.

Resting provides a break from physical activity so that the body’s muscles have time to heal while still maintaining fitness levels. How much rest you need highly depends on your level of fitness, the intensity of the activity, and also your age and overall health.

It could require more than 48 hours between workouts before resuming exercises again. A popular choice is also to have active recovery. That means you have a light activity that is low impact. This helps in the faster removal of metabolic waste products from muscles, reducing stiffness and soreness (source).

Recovery days are essential – but even pro athletes also have whole recovery phases that can last multiple weeks. This helps your body to fully recover and it also helps in psychological relief since you are allowed to just rest for a few days or even weeks (source).

Oftentimes, highly motivated amateur players go from one hard session or training program to another without any adequate rest period. This often leads to overtraining syndrome and injuries.

So take your rest – you deserve it 😉

Warning Signs of Overtraining

Muscular man sitting on a bench

The symptoms of overtraining syndrome can be hard to spot, but if you are aware of the warning signs you can act quickly. Common symptoms include exhaustion lasting several days after exercise and decreased performance. Additionally, mood changes such as irritability or depression may occur. Sleep problems such as difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep through the night, and an increased likelihood of illnesses due to a weakened immune system.

Hormonal imbalances also may occur, leading to menstrual irregularities. More stress hormones can lead to weight gain even without changing your diet.

Physical symptoms like constant muscle aches or repeated injuries can happen if muscles don’t get enough rest between workouts.

Fatigue linked with overtraining arises from failing body recovery times which leaves athletes feeling exhausted even before they start training again – being aware of these indicators will help you notice overtraining early and adjust as soon as possible.

Strategies for Preventing Overtraining

In order to keep overtraining syndrome away, it is important to stay on top of progress made and support health by having good nutrition and hydration levels. Mental well-being is also essential to keep yourself on track.

Monitoring Progress

As mentioned before, tracking progress is crucial. It helps analyze development, spot trends, and make plans.

Performance tracking can be used to recognize the warning signs of overreaching or overtraining, such as worsened muscle soreness, stagnation, or dips in athletic performance levels. Keep track of your perceived exertion, and measure essential metrics like resting heart rate and lactate levels.

Mood assessments like the Recovery-Stress Questionnaire (RESTQ) are handy tools that gauge an individual’s mental state. These questionnaires uncover early signals of overexertion by demonstrating changes in moods like irritability trends, and emotional instability.

By regularly observing your activity level combined with monitoring your feelings consistently, you will have better chances at finding potential clues pointing towards a possibility of overtraining earlier on so that suitable steps may be taken promptly thus avoiding more damage.

Nutrition and Hydration

To endure training and recovery, proper nutrition and hydration are a must. Dehydration can hinder physical performance, reduce the volume of blood in the body, minimize sweat production as well as affect thermoregulation. Keeping adequate water levels is essential for optimizing output and restorations.

As part of structured training plans, players should keep an eye on their daily diet. We won’t go into detail here because this would go far beyond the scope of this post – but we have a detailed nutrition guide for badminton players available here.

An unhealthy diet or the lack of proper hydration does not directly lead to overtraining, but it all adds up over the long term.

Mental Health and Stress Management

Maintaining mental health and managing stress levels are both important to avoid overtraining. Stress relief can be achieved through relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, or yoga.

Mindfulness practices should also form part of an athlete’s routine when trying to avoid issues associated with overtraining – meditating regularly, actively completing mindfulness workouts, and developing psychological skills including systematic rest periods plus positive self-talk all help regulate one’s well-being during rigorous practice times.

Pro badminton players also have mental coaches on their side that help them with managing expectations and developing a strong mental resistance. You don’t need a mental coach to be mindful and reflect, but just like it takes time to develop a strong smash, it also takes time to strengthen your mental game.

Overcoming Overtraining: Recovery and Treatment

Rest, nutritional support, and the assistance of a professional are essential components in effectively managing overtraining syndrome. All three aspects must be addressed for successful recovery.

Cyclist going up a climb.
Doing other sports like cycling can have a positive effect on your mental health.

Rest and Active Recovery

If you are overtrained – taking a longer break is unavoidable. You need to set your goals aside and take your time to recover. This doesn’t mean you cannot do any activities during this period – but you should avoid high-intensity exercise and prioritize low-impact sports.

It is also important to look at the key muscle groups you might have damaged and avoid putting stress on them as much as possible. For the mental part, it also helps to just do no sport at all for a couple of weeks and focus on friends, family, or a nice vacation.

Doing other sports or games that are fun also helps to get back that motivation. You should only begin to train again when you feel like you are fully recovered and don’t feel any fatigue or motivation issues. This is different from a normal injury where you can begin to train earlier again to support recovery. This should be avoided when overtrained.

Summary

Overtraining syndrome is a complex condition that affects both the physical and mental health of athletes. By understanding its causes, recognizing its symptoms, and implementing effective prevention strategies, athletes can maintain a healthy balance in their training programs.

Whether you’re an elite player pushing the boundaries of your performance, or a recreational player striving to improve your game, it’s crucial to listen to your body. Remember, more isn’t always better. Sometimes, less is more.

Happy Playing!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the symptoms of overtraining?

Overtraining Syndrome, from not enough rest after hard workouts, leads to less performance and more fatigue. Symptoms are higher resting heart rate, heavy or stiff muscles, and less strength and endurance despite more effort in workouts.

How do you cure overtraining?

For those overtrained, rest is key. Avoiding physical activity speeds up recovery. Ignoring symptoms can delay healing, so taking a long break is essential for treating overtraining syndrome. Total rest for several weeks can quickly aid recovery without any effort.

What does overtraining lead to?

Overdoing exercise can lead to reduced performance, body inflammation, and hormonal changes. This may cause symptoms like exhaustion, sadness, insomnia, focus problems, and a weaker immune response.

How do I avoid overtraining?

Take care not to rush your training program by pushing too hard or progressing difficulty too quickly – instead, listen closely to the signals that your body is sending you. Ensure adequate breaks and fuel up with nourishing foods for ideal recovery.

What is the difference between overreaching and overtraining?

Overreaching is temporary fatigue from intense training that can improve performance if handled correctly. Overtraining is a long-term issue from too much training, causing lasting fatigue and health issues.


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