PHYSICAL WELLNESS - A KEY CONTRIBUTOR TO PREVENTING BURNOUT AND ENHANCING PERFORMANCE.
Being an athletic competitor comes with the territory of training hard. It means pushing your body to its limits again and again. This is coupled with achiness, soreness, and pain to name a few of the physical traumas athletes put their bodies through. And yes, the blood, sweat, and tears are worth it in the end, but you cannot forget about the physical wellbeing of your body in the process.
Being a top athlete means that your body needs to be in top shape. Overtraining is the practice of pushing the body too hard and too often without appropriate rest or care, thus resulting in an abnormally long recovery period (Meeusen et al., 2006). Overtraining the body and not allowing time to rest will actually decrease an athlete's ability to compete at their highest level. A study of Olympic athletes found that most competitors' number one regret in preparation for the tournament was not giving themselves enough time to rest (Gould et al., 2000). As we athletes have grown throughout our developmental years and pushed ourselves to the limits, it is only natural that our first instinct is to train endlessly with the hopes of quickly developing faster reflexes, better endurance, or greater power. But, given that training and building muscle is a process of breaking down our muscle fibers, our body needs the time to heal itself and grow before it is fully repaired.
While there are many contributors to overtraining, the most important symptom is the number of stressors the person is undertaking while also engaging in heavy training loads (Serrano & Hovsepian, 2011). Regardless of the amount of exercise a person is subjecting themselves to, if there are too many outside stressors (i.e. moving homes, school work, pressure from your job, a dissatisfying relationship), adding extra exercise and training will prevent an athlete from reaching their full potential and improving when they return to practice or compete (Serrano & Hovsepian, 2011).
An important tool to utilize is periodization. Periodization specifies a time for the athlete to train at a designated time (be it days, weeks, or months) where she or he allows themselves to take breaks to rest, recover, and sleep (Serrano & Hovsepian, 2011). Designated time to remove oneself from the training environment provides opportunities to focus on all of the outside stressors that may compound and create overtraining. This solution is tested, however, when a coach or athletic trainer requires heavy training without offering extended periods of time to recover. In this instance, techniques like breathing and relaxation routines will help to redirect attention to a calmer headspace, and prioritizing daily tasks will limit and organize outside stressors.
Athletes should also work to be proactive about caring for their bodies. After a long day of heavy training, ice baths and foam rollers are of great benefit for giving the muscles time to relax and heal. Injury-prone athletes (like myself) may also benefit from consistent chiropractic care. After taking many bodily hits and falls to the ground, my alignment was always out of whack. Chiropractic adjustments corrected misalignment of my hips, shoulders, and ankles, all of which affected the way I walked, ran, and played soccer when left unattended. If you are expecting your body to take you all the way to the championships or help you earn league titles, you need to give it a bit of TLC. Resting and taking a day off of heavy training does not put you at a disadvantage, it actually puts you ahead because you will be more well-rested and ready to compete with a fresh mind and “fresh legs.” The bottom line here is, be kind to your body and it will do great things for you.
Gould, D., Guinan, D., Greenleaf, C., Medbery, R., Strickland, M., Lauer, L., & ... Peterson, K. (2000). Positive and negative factors influencing U.S. Olympic athletes and coaches: Atlanta Games assessment. International Journal Of Volleyball Research, 3(1), 21-25.
Meeusen, R., Duclos, M., Rietjens, G., Steinacker, J., & Urhausen, A. (2006). Prevention, diagnosis and treatment of the overtraining syndrome: Joint consensus statement of the European College of Sport Science (ECSS) and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). European Journal of Sport Science, 6(1), 1-14.
Serrano, R. (Performer), & Hovsepian, A. (Performer) (2011). Episode 272 – are you overtraining? – healthy living [Web]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?