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Overtraining is a physical, behavioral, and emotional condition that occurs when the volume and intensity of an individual's exercise exceeds their recovery capacity. They cease making progress, and can even begin to lose strength and fitness. Overtraining is a common problem in weight training, but it can also be experienced by runners and other athletes.
Both single- and multi-stressor models have been proposed. The single model emphasizes an imbalance between training load and recovery and excludes factors unrelated to physical performance. The multi-stressor model incorporates non-physical factors including psychological, emotional and social aspects. An integrative model is also suggested that incorporates recovery from training and how stressors impact an athlete including assessment of stressors based on athlete personality.
Like pharmacological drugs, physical exercise may be chemically addictive. One theory is that this addiction is due to natural endorphins and dopamine generated and regulated by the exercise. Whether strictly due to this chemical by-product or not, some people can be said to become addicted to or fixated on psychological/physical effects of physical exercise and fitness. This may lead to overexercise, resulting in the "overtraining" syndrome.
Improvements in strength and fitness occur only after the rest period following hard training (see supercompensation). This process can take days to complete, depending on the intensity and duration of exercise leading to the overtrained state. If sufficient rest is not available, then complete regeneration cannot occur. If this imbalance between excess training and inadequate rest persists, then the individual's performance will eventually plateau and decline. Mild overtraining may require several days of rest or reduced activity to fully restore an athlete's fitness. If prompt attention is not given to the developing state and an athlete continues to train and accumulate fatigue, the condition may come to persist for weeks.
Overtraining occurs more readily if the individual is simultaneously exposed to other physical and psychological stressors, such as jet lag, ongoing illness, overwork, menstruation, poor nutrition etc. It is a particular problem for bodybuilders and other dieters who engage in intense exercise while limiting their food intake.
A number of possible mechanisms for overtraining have been proposed:
Overtraining may be accompanied by one or more concomitant symptoms:
Allowing more time for the body to recover:
Overtraining can be used advantageously, as when a bodybuilder is purposely overtrained for a brief period of time to supercompensate during a regeneration phase. These are known as "shock micro-cycles" and were a key training technique used by Soviet athletes.