The Sidelines: the implications that overtraining can have on one’s body

Exhausted runners on track

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Exhausted runners on track

When it comes to sports, it is no surprise that most people who are involved want to come out on top. That is just the nature we humans live with. Nonetheless, the ones that have the dedication to pull through and come out on top always place many hours into that sport and sacrifice aspects of their everyday lives to gain that spot. However, one main topic that many tend to overlook is whether or not this type of training is positive for the athlete. 

Sports have always been a factor of competitiveness in order to be the best no matter if it is friend or foe that you are competing with, but with this comes many aspects in which athletes apply this pressure to perform at one’s best. With these pressures that the athletes are under, many turn to one thing that they know is supposed to help them improve: training. However, how much training is too much and how can that impact the athlete? This issue is starting to become apparent in one’s physical health. For instance, many of these athletes are pushing themselves to become better, whether that be the fastest on the field, having the best shot, or being the farthest thrower, there is always something athletes know that they can improve on; however, over time, if not done properly, their bodies began to wear down and soon hit the breaking point. Even though many coaches use the phrase, or something similar to it, along the lines of “mind over matter,” there comes a point in which athletes can not physically do more, but with the pressures on the line to be the best, they push themselves no matter what. With this overtraining, athletes can start to experience exhaustion and fatigue which can start to impact their everyday lives outside of athletics. This exhaustion and fatigue, however, can lead to greater issues such as injuries. In a report from National Athletic Trainers Association, it states, “Those who had sustained an overuse injury scored 16.3 [on the PDSS (Pediatric Daytime Sleepiness Scale)] vs. 14.2 for non-injured athletes.” 

Not only are athletes affected physically by overtraining, but there are also some implications to their mental health as well. With the standards that these athletes try to achieve and hopefully surpass, they start to focus on how to become the perfect athlete. This can lead to a spiral of their mental health getting out of control due to the fact that because of the standards they placed on themselves, they are never truly able to achieve them because there is always something that they need to fix. Over time, the perfectionism that an athlete develops can start to lead them down a rabbit hole of issues such as depression and anxiety. In a report by the American College of Sports Medicine, “Approximately 35% of elite athletes suffer from disordered eating, burnout, depression and/or anxiety.”  Perfectionism can also lead to a loss in self-confidence and self-worth due to the fact that because they cannot achieve that certain standard, they are never able to be where they want or need to be while also feeling like a complete failure. 

In all, training for an athlete will always have its positives like being able to improve on a task or skill, or allowing oneself to become more aware or confident within the sport. However, everything has to come in moderation, and that is no different in training. Once an athlete beings to overtrain, there can be many issues that can arise in both his or her own physical and mental health. It is a matter of an athlete, and even his or her coaches at times, to learn and understand that fine line and gain a healthy balance of enough training that will help the athlete improve rather than it being his or her own downfall.