How to Avoid Overtraining Syndrome (OTS)

Nothing can derail your best laid training plans and goals like an injury or suffering from Overtraining Syndrome (OTS).

OTS usually starts with muscle soreness and a feeling of fatigue. Then it quickly progresses into a case of overtraining syndrome or injury. Overtraining can occur when the intensity and/or volume of exercise becomes too much for the body to properly recover from. Many common running injuries are directly associated with OTS. It’s always best to prevent OTS rather than attempt to recover from it.

How to Avoid Overtraining Syndrome

Proper recovery is critical to avoiding injury and OTS. Every recovery protocol should include a multifaceted approach that incorporates strategies to positively affect the muscular, nervous, and hormonal systems. This includes proper nutrition, getting adequate sleep, cross training, and implementing self-care modalities (such as mobility band use and foam roller use).

Focus on your Recovery Nutrition

Your body’s ability to train harder and recover faster is not just about the exercises performed. It should also be centered on the fuel you put in your body. Your body cannot perform optimally, recover adequately or heal from injury properly without adequate nutrition.

The majority of your diet should be from real food. My personal belief is that food which is minimally processed, organic and/or home grown is likely to have a higher nutrient load and will therefore be healthier for you. Your body simply cannot heal and recover quickly or adequately when substandard fuel “food” is consumed.

  • Initially, focus on macronutrients (fat, protein, carbohydrate) when it comes to food. For me, this includes a diet high in protein from many sources (plant and animal-based), high in fruits and vegetables, and low in processed carbohydrates.
  • Runners and endurance athletes should pay particular attention to protein intake as maintaining muscle mass is critical for performance and injury prevention.
  • I am a believer in supplements although you must choose wisely. Your dietary belief system, genetics, and the type of exercise and/or activity (such as running) that you mainly participate in will determine which supplements may work best for you.

When choosing supplements, I tend to gravitate toward supplements that can enhance performance, improve recovery, stabilize blood sugar, and reduce systemic inflammation. The ultimate goal with supplements is to aid your body in improving health and/or performance. Try to choose the most natural products as possible and experiment to see what works best for you. Look for supplements that don’t contain extra fillers, sweeteners or additives.

Get Adequate Sleep

On average, we need six to eight hours of sleep each day. The harder you train, the more rest you need to insure proper recovery. As you approach a state of overtraining, sleep quality tends to decline. Magnesium is a critical nutrient that not only helps to reduce muscle soreness, but also helps you to get a better night of rest.

Most of us are deficient in the amount of magnesium we consume on a regular basis.  I choose to take a magnesium supplement nightly before bed. Mag Glycinate in its oral form is the most highly absorbable. Otherwise, eat foods, such as spinach, artichokes, and dates, which are higher in magnesium.

Cross Training

Running should not be your only form of exercise. Cross training is an important component in preventing injury and promoting recovery. Implement cross training in your typical training cycles as a method to limit your risk of injury. Cross training can make running training more enjoyable as it keeps your body stimulated and ready for improvement.

Cross training can also be the perfect time to spot train your weak areas. Work on your mobility and balance as a prevention technique for areas that are prone to injury. If you have a history of low back pain or a prior knee injury, utilize this time to single out all those weak areas in an effort to prevent injury in the future.

Actively Manage your Aches and Pains

Be proactive when you start to feel those aches and pains creep up by initiating a self-treatment protocol right away. It’s always easier to prevent an injury from occurring rather than having to treat one.

Use the foam roller after running and/or exercise in order to speed up your recovery time and decrease the risk of muscle soreness or restriction. Learn how to self-mobilize by using treatment techniques including mobility bands and cupping. Don’t underestimate the value of a good stretching session or practicing yoga. You may also consider seeing a masseuse for regular body work.

Overtraining syndrome can be dangerous and severely limit your ability to train.  It also significantly increases your risk of injury. If you aren’t experiencing a positive improvement after implementing these strategies, please seek additional medical assistance.

For additional information I recommend Coach Angie’s free downloadable guide called The Runner’s Toolbox!

Also be sure to check out the following podcast episodes:

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