Overtraining Syndrome ?

Mother runner overtraining is no joke! It happens A LOT. And no, overtraining is not just for elite athletes. Let’s start by explaining what overtraining is before we dive in deeper..

Overtraining syndrome (OTS) is defined as an increase in training duration, intensity and/or frequency that is beyond the athlete’s ability to recover within a reasonable time frame with adequate rest (this includes fueling adequately for such training as well). How quickly an athlete should be able to recover is quite variable in the research, but OTS is more often defined by fatigue that exceeds 3-4days after training/exercise sessions that causes the athlete to still feel fatigued and unable to perform as expected for more than a 2-3weeks period. The two primary culprits of OTS occur when exercise and training sessions are too much too soon, and/or repetitive overuse and duration without enough variability of workout intensities. Note: There isn’t a formal test to confirm if an individual has OTS, but rather looked at as a cluster of signs and symptoms for diagnosis.

  • Common signs to look out for:
    • Plateau or decrease in performance despite training efforts
    • Disturbed sleep and/or not feeling refreshed upon waking
    • Mood changes, irritability, loss of concentration
    • Decreased or altered appetite
    • Higher resting heart rate
    • Loss of regular menstrual cycle
    • Chronic muscle and joint pain
    • Frequent illnesses
    • Decreased motivation or enjoyment with exercise and/or training plan
  • How does it impact the mother runner specifically
    • Increased risk for overuse injuries
    • Decreased immune function (lowers T cells) → increased illnesses
    • Fatigue and low energy → adrenal fatigue syndrome
    • Lost/irregular menstrual cycle → lower estrogen levels → decrease in bone mineral density loss → stress fractures and osteoporosis
    • Lower Testosterone → decreased muscle mass and lack of muscle gain
    • Increased cortisol levels (stress hormone) → often causes weight retention
    • Pelvic floor → increased fatigue, pelvic pain and/or increase in incontinence
  • Tips to support yourself
    • Mixing up your workout type, durations and intensities throughout the week.
    • For every hard workout, space two days of lower intensity work in between
    • Have 1-2 rest days per week to ensure adequate recovery time
    • Fueling (food and hydration) thoughtfully to support your exercise/training efforts
    • If you keep a training log, note how you feel at the end of each week. Use that intel to check in and see if you start to notice any overtraining warning signs. This will help you be able to adjust your training to support your body’s needs beforehand.