Planning to Avoid Overtraining

Critical Question 2 – What are the Planning Considerations for Improving Performance?


If coaches and athletes do not sufficiently plan and prepare their training schedule, they risk the occurrence of overtraining. If the training load is too high for the athlete, they risk injury and burnout. This means that they will not be able to perform to the best of their ability or sustain their fitness levels.

Amount and Intensity of Training

It is essential to balance training sessions and loads. Too many hard, intense sessions in a row without recovery can lead to burnout. An increase in the number of sessions per week can lead to the same result.

If the demands and strain applied to the body increase too quickly, there may be negative reaction. Consequently, it is important to include recovery sessions in the training/competition schedule to allow time for the body to rest and restore itself.

Other factors, which may lead to overtraining, include competing excessively, constantly practicing the same technique or placing undue stress on a particular muscle group. To avoid injury and burnout athletes and coaches must plan, and allow time for, sufficient recovery.

Physiological Considerations

All athletes will suffer from some level of fatigue or soreness during their competition season. As a result, it is necessary to keep an eye on the physiological responses, which occur during training, in order to monitor the athlete and their progress.

Some key symptoms and behaviours to watch out for include:

  • fatigue or lack of energy
  • injuries, resulting from overtraining
  • an increase in minor injuries
  • lack of, or disturbed, sleep
  • a decrease in the performance
  • a higher resting heart rate

Psychological Considerations

When an athlete trains to hard, without time for rest and recovery, there is a risk that their motivation to train and compete may be negatively effected. Athletes must learn to monitor their mental health so that they can balance their physiological and psychological needs with strategies used to motivate and intensify during each training session. Coaches must remember that simply pushing an athlete who lacks motivation to work harder, at a higher intensity will probably not work and may lead to further deterioration of their mental state.

Signs that an athlete may be suffering from psychological issues include:

  • lack of concentration
  • low self esteem
  • lack of motivation and/or enthusiasm
  • lack of sleep
  • no drive to compete
  • depression (in severe cases)

There are a number of strategies, which can counteract and restore mental wellbeing. For example, reducing the number of sessions briefly to allow the athlete to recover, refocus and regain their drive to compete again. Introducing variety into training sessions and providing positive reinforcement are also effective methods coaches can use. It is also important to make sure that all other factors in the athlete’s life are balanced, including the quality of their sleep, diet and relationships.