How to Avoid Overtraining and Overuse Injuries

It's no secret that endurance buffs are often at higher risk of overtraining than athletes in many other sports. The physical and mental demands of triathlon, in particular, necessitate a significant amount of training, which can sometimes lead to athletes going overboard. In fact, new research suggests that of all the issues iron-distance triathletes face, problems associated with overuse injuries far outweigh acute ailments or illness. The two main issues that arise from overreaching in training are overuse injuries and something called "overtraining syndrome."

In that new study, the most common overuse injury sites were the knees, lower legs, lower back and shoulders. These ailments often result from continuing to train through aches and pains when the body is in need of recovery. Similarly, overtraining syndrome can develop when an athlete doesn't properly implement rest time amidst heavy training. Usually marked by exhaustion and nondescript fatigue, athletes who run into this issue often experience loss of motivation and general malaise.

More: 5 Signs of Overtraining

One study that looked at a group of Swiss elite athletes described the problem stating, "If the athlete does not respect the appropriate balance between stress and recovery, thus ignoring early signs such as prolonged fatigue, mood disturbances or loss of motivation, then overreaching will ensue."

Both overuse injuries and overtraining syndrome are a side effect of simply not listening to your body. Whether you've got a sore knee you continue to run on or you simply aren't scheduling adequate recovery into your training cycle, either issue can leave you benched. While triathletes must push hard and put in enough training to properly prepare for longer events, diminishing returns can result when training isn't strategic.

More: The 4 Rules of Ironman Training

What to Do If You've Trained Too Much

If you begin to display symptoms of overtraining syndrome, Devon Palmer, a professional triathlete and coach based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, emphasizes the importance of allowing your body and mind a bit of a break. "Reign in the intensity and volume and keep it light for a bit," he says. "It might take a few days or if you've really overcooked yourself, it might take weeks."

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About the Author

Mackenzie Lobby Havey

Mackenzie Lobby Havey is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer and photographer with a Master's in Kinesiology from the University of Minnesota. She has run 10 marathons and is a USATF certified coach. When she's not writing, she's out swimming, biking, and running the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes. Check out her website at mackenzielobby.com.
Mackenzie Lobby Havey is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer and photographer with a Master's in Kinesiology from the University of Minnesota. She has run 10 marathons and is a USATF certified coach. When she's not writing, she's out swimming, biking, and running the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes. Check out her website at mackenzielobby.com.

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