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Bert Bauzon
Bert Bauzon is a licensed physiotherapist specializing in spinal care and sports rehabilitation. He writes articles and books about exercise science and health care.

How To Prevent Overtraining, Overreaching and CNS Fatigue

The term overtraining has been used a lot by athletes and sports coaches, and it gained popularity as well among fitness enthusiasts in recent years.

But what does overtraining actually mean?

While there are controversies about the existence of overtraining and CNS fatigue, there’s no denying a lot of people experience its effects, and there are studies that support it.

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Man overtrained

What is overtraining?

Your body has a unique balancing process to recover from all the physical stress you put into your workout.

The body uses this time to repair damaged tissues, stimulate muscle growth (hypertrophy), and improve performance.

Overtraining occurs when the balance between your training and recovery is disrupted.

This leads to a noticeable decrease in your strength, endurance and overall performance that can last for more than 2-3 weeks.

Chronic physical stress combined with poor recovery, and the absence of variety in your training routine can lead to overtraining and stagnation.

Overtraining can stop your ability to make progress with your fitness goals and gradually lose strength.

Effects of overtraining:

  • Persistent fatigue
  • Decrease in performance
  • Increased risk for injury
  • Increased risk of illness
  • Increased anxiety and mood imbalance
  • Inability to focus and manage your sleep.

How does overtraining differ from overreaching and CNS fatigue?

Overreaching

In a sense, overreaching is a milder form of overtraining that lasts in less than 2-4 weeks.

When you are in an overreaching state, you may feel tired and irritable.

Additionally, you may experience a longer recovery from doing a set than you usually would.

The good thing about this is you can use this period to emphasize your recovery period and take advantage of this phase to achieve supercompensation to maximize your gains.

Supercompensation is a phenomenon that can be achieved when you pair your training with proper recovery time.

Your body adapts more strongly to the demands of overreaching stimulus, leading to greater gain and enhancing your capacity to perform on a higher level.

The key is to notice the signs of overreaching early before it leads to overtraining and focus on recovery instead to achieve the supercompensation phenomenon.

CNS Fatigue

Prolonged state of being overtrained can lead to your brain being constantly tired.

This results in decreased functions of the cortex, the area of the brain responsible for movements and planning.

Overtraining can fatigue the Central Nervous System (CNS), resulting in inefficient muscle performance.

You may struggle to engage your muscles when performing a physically demanding task if you are in a state of CNS fatigue.

CNS fatigue is your bodies way of saying that it is not yet ready to do anything extremely strenuous as you did before

What can you do to prevent overtraining?

  • Personalize your training program based on your capability
  • Set and track your goals
  • Cooldown after training
  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Take your rest seriously
  • Stay hydrated
  • Meditation
  • Add variety to your training routine
  • Reduce the volume of your exercise (Deloading week)

You need rest and optimal periodization after prolonged high-intensity workout weeks to prevent overtraining.

This is vital to stimulate proper growth and continue to increase your performance.

Periodization means you have to balance your workout.

It would help if you gradually increased the intensity and volume of your workout while allotting cycles for deloading and recovery.

Alternating your training into high intensity and low intensity will also help you achieve maximum results.

Additionally, progressive overload is essential for effective and safe strength gain.

Workout variations and adding resistance to challenge your body with the right timing can prevent plateauing of your progress.

Overtraining can be prevented through optimizing your training routine based on your personal performance and goals

Summary

Preventing and overcoming overtraining syndrome is all about periodization and finding an optimal balance between your routine and recovery.

Be mindful of the signs and symptoms of overtraining.

Modify your exercises and make adjustments in your routine if needed.

Remember that optimal rest is also part of your training and is vital to achieve your peak performance.

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