Perhaps Shakespeare will forgive me for twisting his words but the original statement from Hamlet, “To be or not to be” is fitting. As young and old athletes jockey for the top spot, work to achieve their personal best, make a team or perhaps qualify for a college scholarship, it is a tricky juxtaposition they find themselves to be able to perform optimally without negatively affecting their performance and/or creating an injury. Training programs are developed by weeks, months, and the whole year (micro, meso, and macro cycles respectively) based on the knowledge athletes will make specific adaptations to imposed demands (SAID Principle) with appropriate amounts of rest. (Baechle & Earle, 2000) In order to achieve improvements, athletes must push their limits. Functional Overreaching (FOR) is a term used to describe when, “athletes experience short-term performance decrement, without severe psychological, or lasting other negative symptoms. When athletes do not sufficiently respect the balance between training and recovery, Non-Functional Overreaching (NFOR) can occur.” (Meeusen et. al. 2013) NFOR, overtraining, burnout, staleness are all terms that point to the same nonproductive state for the athlete. How do coaches, parents, athletic trainers, strength coaches and athletes know the difference between appropriate levels and too much?Bad news, there is not one tool that fully encompasses all aspects of knowing when overtraining is taking place nor are they consistent from individual to individual. (Rearick, 2011). A joint position statement by the European College of Sports Science (ECSS) and American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) was released stating, “Currently several markers, (hormones, performance tests, psychological tests, biochemical and immune markers) are used, but none of them meets all criteria to make its use generally accepted. (Meeusen et. al. 2013) Rest assured there are some signs and symptoms that can be monitored.
Common signs and symptoms that are consistent with overtraining include but are not limited to: fatigue, injury, illness, and burnout (Kellman. M, 2010). Injuries that do not heal as well as consistent decline in performance are also markers of overtraining. According to the National Strength & Conditioning Association, overtraining can take place for both anaerobic as well as aerobic athletes. However, “because of the limited markers available for anaerobic overtraining, many athletes and coaches monitor the markers of aerobic overtraining while typically not working to monitor anaerobic overtraining.” Known markers for anaerobic training include decreased desire to train, decreased joy from training, acute epinephrine and norepinephrine increases beyond normal exercise-induced levels (sympathetic overtraining system), and performance decrements, although these occur too late to be a good predictor.”