Fatigue, overtraining and recovery

Long-term stress-related ill health and fatigue in the general population are commonly discussed since it contributes to physical and mental health problems with disabling consequences for sufferer. This mainly applies to professionals and focus of the discussions are often on the work environment, leadership, collegial climate and workload in relation to recovery.

In elite sports, there are similar problems with stress-related health problems and fatigue. It is common that exercise and training is not followed by sufficient recovery behaviors. This along with the pressure of being an elite athlete, i.e., own and others’ demands for high performance, deliberate training and perhaps expectations of giving up e.g., socializing as it conflicts with training times, camps, or competitions. Overtraining can be considered a precursor to fatigue and overtraining syndrome and is primarily about lack of recovery behaviors. When overtraining, you usually notice that the joy, motivation for training and competition as well as commitment to your sport remains, but the achievements are lacking. Signs of overtraining can, in addition to impaired performance, be difficulty concentrating, muscle soreness, weight loss, fatigue and mood swings. If the athlete continues to train in the same way for a long time without sufficient recovery, there is a risk that the symptoms will worsen and develop into fatigue. Signs of fatigue can be low motivation for e.g., the sport and training you have previously been passionate about, depression, anxiety, and low energy. Tasks and activities that were previously perceived as simple feel overwhelming. Concentration problems, clearly impaired performance, sleep problems, feeling of both physical and mental exhaustion, fatigue, a desire to withdraw and impaired self-confidence are other common symptoms.

There is an ongoing conversation about the importance of adequate recovery to enhance resilience against various types of ill health. A question that remains to be addressed is: what does adequate recovery mean and what exactly is it? Recovery is commonly described as absence of requirements or indirectly via symptoms. These descriptions can make it hard to distinguish what the actual recovery is and whether it has been sufficient. We apply a model based on learning psychology and functional analysis, where recovery is defined in recovery behaviors. A recovery behavior is a behavior that gives a recovery effect – i.e., the athlete feels rested, happy, sufficient nutritional status, and joyful or at peace. It is important to acknowledge that different behaviors work as recovery behaviors for different athletes and in different contexts. We need different amounts of recovery based on how extensive the work has been. Examples of recovery behaviors can be eating regular and nutritious meals, sleeping at night, hanging out with friends, different types of physical activity and relaxation techniques, and mindfulness exercise.

Do you recognize yourself in the symptoms described above? Is it difficult to perform at your top level? Do you feel tired, lack of energy and perhaps depressed? Do you have difficulty sleeping and find it difficult to spend time with other people? It may be a sign of being overtrained or exhausted. You get a structured assessment where your concerns are evaluated based on your situation and the balance between workload and recovery. Recovery behaviors are mapped, and an individually tailored treatment plan is designed. The treatment is based on your goals and life values along with your commitment to sport as a natural part of our work.