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How to Identify If Your Young Athlete is Overtraining and What to Do About It!

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How to Identify If Your Young Athlete is Overtraining and What to Do About It!

High intensity and high-volume training is an essential part of creating a fully developed youth athlete. However, remaining in this state of training for too long or during the wrong times can lead to overtraining.

As youth athletes, you must consider that there are many other factors that come into play more than just strength training or competing in their sport...school, a social life, and family on top of all the other stresses in their life. These stresses all contribute when scheduling a young athlete's training and how hard they should be going.

How overtraining occurs:

  • Insufficient recovery between training/games
  • Too much high intensity for too long
  • Sudden increases in intensity, duration or type of training
  • Daily exercise
  • High volumes of endurance training
  • No time off/holidays
  • For athletes - lots of competitions in a short period of time
  • Inadequate nutrition - usually fact/carbohydrate restrictions
  • Insufficient sleep
  • Periods of exams/school assessments
  • Social/relationship problems
  • High amounts of stress and anxiety

Common signs of overtraining:

  • Excessive fatigue and lethargy
  • Loss of motivation, energy, drive and enthusiasm to train or compete
  • Increased feelings of stress, anxiety and irritability
  • Insomnia, sleep problems or nightmares
  • Poor concentration and inability to relax
  • Large fluctuations in weight
  • Loss of appetite
  • Constant soreness
  • Increased frequency of sickness and illness
  • Lowered performance in competition
  • Higher resting heart rate and blood pressure
  • Longer time for heart rate to return to resting levels
  • Diarrhoea, nausea or headaches
  • Menstrual irregularities

What to do if your young athlete has over trained:

Take time off

  • Taking a break from the gym and training for a few days is a great way to reset their motivation towards training and allow your child's body and central nervous system to recover back to normal levels. They'll be able to return to training with a fresh new mindset.

Reduce the intensity of training

  • Decreasing the total volume is important to ensure your young athlete isn't overdoing it. The opposite applies as well, decreasing the amount of weight they are lifting is important if the goal is to focus on the volume.
  • Another thing to consider is to account for all factors in their life. They cannot keep operating at high intensities in all aspects. If school and sport training are hard then gym needs to be eased off and vice versa.

Introduce recovery days

  • Incorporating an off day or game/muck around day once every fortnight can help ensure that intensity isn't being overdone.
  • Another option is choosing a couple days of the week to be "light" training days where your child is operating a lot lower intensity than their typical training day. This strategy is known as periodisation.

Relieve some tension and stress

  • Finding an activity that your child enjoys can be used to relieve some tension and stress such as: massages, meditation, yoga, hot baths and music will help a lot with their recovery. Even if its just listening to some music and going through a light stretching routine for 10-15 minutes.

Identify nutritional deficiencies

  • Your child's body needs adequate fuel to be able to continue to operate at high intensities. Carbohydrates and fats need to be increased to allow for this to occur. Protein is important for recovery, but fats and carbohydrates are going to be used as fuel to allow for muscular contractions to occur. Consuming some simple carbohydrates in the 30-60mins prior to training and a combination of fats, protein and carbohydrates post training will ensure fuel stores are being replenished.

Listen to your body

  • This is important to reiterate with your child. A sore muscle is a muscle that hasn't fully recovered, it's also a muscle that won't be able to contract as strongly and is more susceptible to injury. If they're extra sore, then rest. Taking one day off can be a lot more helpful in the long term if it means their training won't be impeded due to a longer injury.

For more information on all things strength and conditioning, check out our website and podcast (also available on Spotify and YouTube!).

Matt Hucul
Strength and Conditioning Coach
Inner Athlete Performance

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