I think they’re being pushed too hard …. they look tired to me …”

We often hear the term overtraining being applied by recreational coaches and parents to what they see in regular training or competitive games. The nearest hint of an athlete in distress can set in motion a conversation or observations which mis-represent what is actually happening or planned. The good news is that at recreational sports level, overtraining is unlikely to occur. At the elite athlete end of the spectrum, whilst volume and intensity of training is very demanding, the players usually have the physical and psychological skills to tolerate it AND they are usually equipped with the best in coaching science (strength and conditioning coaches, MD’s, physiotherapists) to monitor and adjust training accordingly.

We present to you three basic points in relation to overtraining: 1) without reference to context, it is next to impossible to accurately demonstrate over-training as there is no standard and universally accepted marker of it 2) planned overload of the physiological system is regularly mistaken for overtraining. This functional overreaching usually goes hand with acute performance decrement but the rebound from it boosts the athlete to a new level 3) real overtraining is rare, and the consequences of it occurring are devastating for an athlete.

In a carefully planned training cycle, an athlete will overload any of/or combination of their training frequency, training volume, intensity and density. We recommend overloading one component at a time, however highly trained athletes may overload numerous components for short periods (as in block periodization). Overloading the athlete is a necessary stimulus for continuous positive physiological adaptations to occur. We recommend overloading for 2-3 weeks before allowing an active recovery week. During the weeks of overloading, it is highly possible and desirable that an athlete is fatigued and looking forward to the active recovery week.