How to recover from overtraining syndrome

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1. Have a plan

Periodisation is a structured plan that cycles periods of harder training, to overload the body, with periods of rest and easier sessions,’ says Tom Craggs, lead coach at Running with Us. ‘This allows the body to adapt by focusing on different types of training at different stages of the year.’

2. But be ready to bin it…

‘If you notice overtraining syndrome (OTS) warning signs, listen to your body,’ says Craggs. ‘Back off, forget the plan and rest.’

3. Keep a diary

‘Monitor progression, as well as plateaus,’ says Craggs. ‘Don’t just log the miles; make a note of how you felt. How were your energy levels? Were you feeling focused or fearful about runs?’

4. Rest

‘Plan at least one rest day a week,’ says Craggs. ‘Alternate hard and easy sessions to ensure your body rebuilds at a cellular level. Include cutback weeks, where intensity and volume are reduced, every third or fourth week. Schedule periods of total rest after key races and don’t race too hard, too often.’

5. Take a life inventory

‘Look at all the external forces around your training and assess them as you would your training,’ says Greg Whyte, former Olympian and Professor in Applied Sport and Exercise Science at Liverpool John Moores University. ‘Psychological and sociological pressures are as important as the physical ones.’ ‘If you’re going through a period of intense work or family stress this will impact on your running,’ says Craggs. ‘Listen to your body and reduce training during these periods.’

6. Eat right

‘Eat a well-balanced diet full of micronutrients from varied natural sources,’ says Craggs. ‘Ensure good intake of key vitamins and minerals, including iron, vitamin C, magnesium, B vitamins and zinc.’

7. Sleep

‘Growth hormones are released during deep sleep and there’s a direct link between athletes getting less than eight hours and increased risk of OTS,’ says Craggs. ‘Sleep also has a potent antioxidant effect,’ adds  Charles Pedlar, a sport scientist at St Mary’s University, Twickenham. ‘Banish phones, tablets, laptops and TVs from the bedroom, and avoid caffeine, sugar and alcohol late at night.’