The amount and intensity of training leads to overtraining when the athlete completes high intensity training too often. When there is a large amount of training at high intensities then overtraining is likely to occur. Particular forms of training, such as strength training, require 48 hours of rest for the muscles in order to recover and adapt appropriately to the training.
Large volumes of training at high intensity cause overtraining. This is because the athlete does not have enough time between training sessions to recover from the previous training session. With a high volume of training at high intensities the athlete is more likely to suffer from overtraining, leading to poor performance, decreased motivation and higher risk of injuries.
How much training is too much?
When it comes to deciding the amount and intensity of training, how much training is too much, or at what amount and intensity combination is overtraining more likely, there are some general guidelines, but everything is always athlete specific. Individual aspects including: stress from work or family, medical conditions, nutrition, sleep, or use of recovery strategies all contribute to an athlete’s risk of suffering from overtraining.
As a general rule, athletes should not be completing high intensity training every day. In order for physiological adaptations to occur training intensities should be in the relevant training zones and often need to only occur 3 times a week. The various types of training should be examined in order to ensure that the amount and intensity of training does not place too much stress upon the athlete. For example, a rugby league player should not be developing their strength, power, speed, agility and body composition all at the same time. This would require a large amount of high intensity training.
What do you do if you identify an overtrained athlete?
The short answer is reduce the amount and intensity of training sessions. The athlete may need to take a complete break from training for a period of time in order to recover fully from their training session. If overtraining is identified early, a simple change in frequency, intensity and time for training may be all that is needed. However, often overtraining is not identified until after injuries begin to occur, in which case, rehabilitation should occur and testing be done before the athlete returns to normal training and competition.
How can overtraining be avoided?
Overtraining is avoided by having a good balance in the amount and intensity of training. Planning a training year and ensuring the athlete has regular rest periods is vital. These rest periods will be weekly, as well as longer rest periods throughout the year, structured into the program. The inclusion of recovery sessions and skills or tactical training session also provide rest for the athletes allowing them to recover from training sessions with higher intensities. Given the individual nature of overtraining, it is important that the coaches and trainers monitor each athlete closely looking for the signs and symptoms of overtraining. Overtraining is generally avoided by maintaining a good balance of the amount and intensity of training.