Overtraining May Hinder Athletic Performance

Now that summer is in full swing, many children – and adults – are making the most of the beautiful weather and are participating in numerous sports teams.  All that sports conditioning and athletic training are great for your energy levels and weight management, but it could actually hinder your athletic performance.

A University of Guelph study is the first to show that overload training may alter firing in the body’s sympathetic nerve fibers, which could hinder performance.

“The theory behind overload training is that you train to the point of complete exhaustion, so that when you rest and recover, you will be able to perform at a higher level than before,” said Alexandra Coates, a PhD student in human health and nutritional science and lead author of the study. “But that may not be entirely correct.”

The study revealed that “muscle sympathetic nerve activity, which constricts the muscle’s blood vessels and indicates stress in the body, increased in over-trained athletes.” In layman’s terms, this means that an athlete’s nervous system is temporarily altered by overtraining.  So, athletes who follow a consistent fitness and training schedule may have better endurance and long-term performance.

As a Certified Athletic Trainer and the founder of Fitness for Health, a therapeutic, exercise facility working with children through senior citizens – and professional athletes such as Jerome Couplin III, formerly of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles and Los Angeles Rams – in the Washington, DC, area, I am routinely asked, “How can I ensure that my child or I am safe while athletic training?”

I think it’s important for kids – and adults – to excel in sports and love the simple pursuit of play while protecting your health.   Here are my suggestions for preparing for athletic training and the demands of playing summer sports:

  • Before playing organized sports, make sure you or your child receives a pre-participation physical exam, or PPE, performed by a doctor or a nurse practitioner or qualified clinician under the supervision of a physician. Whomever performs the exam, the same practices should be followed including the need for a medical history.
  • Ensure you’re warming-up and cooling down.  Stretching before and after practices and games can release muscle tension and help prevent sports-related injuries, such as muscle tears or sprains, and ensure bone and joint health.
  • Encourage your athletes to drinks fluids (water is the best option) 30 minutes before the activity begins and every 15-20 minutes during activity in order to stay hydrated.  Even if the child isn’t thirsty, insist he/she drink water.
  • Know the signs of dehydration.  Even mild dehydration can affect your child’s athletic performance and make him/her lethargic and irritable. Left untreated, dehydration increases the risk of other heat-related illnesses, including heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
  • Don’t over-train.  According to BodyBuilder.com, “Along with persistent fatigue, you may be also experiencing these symptoms of overtraining:”
    • Persistent muscle soreness
    • Elevated resting heart rate
    • Increased susceptibility to infections
    • Increased incidence of injuries
    • Irritability
    • Depression
    • Loss of motivation
    • Insomnia
    • Decreased appetite
    • Weight loss
  • If you – or your child – do over-train, rest.  To see improvement in one’s strength and fitness you must rest. The rest period following hard training is a magical process which takes at least 36 hours to complete. By skimping on rest, complete regeneration cannot occur.  If the amount of training continues to exceed the rest period, however, the individual’s performance will plateau and decline.

About Fitness for Health:

Do you or your child want an athletic edge for fall sports? Want to train like a professional athlete?

Try EDGE Training – Athletic Performance Development to improve hand-eye coordination, visual reaction time, peripheral awareness, agility, balance, proprioception and athletic conditioning utilizing the latest in exergaming technology.  All are areas that will make the difference – and give you the EDGE during game time.

Call 301-231-7138 to register for a FREE tour or attend our Open House on Sunday, August 5, from 5pm – 6pm.