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Athletic Over-training : Cause, Symptoms & Prevention

Updated on June 26, 2011

Pushing farther and working harder are the usual intentions of an athlete when it comes to training to increase their athletic abilities. Many athletes continue to push their bodies harder each day with little to no time dedicated to recovery. These athletes misjudge recovery as wasted time and time that should be used for additional training. However, giving the body ample time to recover is a crucial part of training and increasing athletic abilities. Recovery time should be incorporated into an athlete’s training program to give the body time to rest and be at peak performance for other training sessions.


Over-training can be defined as continuous training stress which causes a short decrease in performance and even longer when combined with mental stressors. Some causes of over-training are:

Frequent training sessions to the point of fatigue

Continuous training throughout fatigue and low performance

Training that is too intense for the athlete’s body to handle

High training volume that the athlete’s body cannot handle

Workouts without adequate recovery

Additional mental stressors that can worsen over-training:

Lack of sleep


Bad eating habits



Other social stressors (i.e. work, home, school)


Here are some symptoms of over-training:

Decrease in appetite

Low performance

Lack of focus

Reduced motivation


Increase in colds

Increase in injuries

Severe fatigue

Unable to concentrate

Mood swings



The best way to prevent over-training is to provide the body with sufficient amount of time to recover from training sessions. As with most illnesses, paying attention to changes in the body is also a preventable measure for over-training. If the athlete is experiencing early signs of any of these symptoms, it will be beneficial to increase their recovery time until the symptoms clear. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, the effects of over-training can take weeks to months to correct.


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