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Sports Performance | Personal Training

Overtraining in Athletes: Tips and Tricks To Avoid It During Your Season

December 30th, 2022 | 4 min. read

Overtraining in Athletes: Tips and Tricks To Avoid It During Your Season
Ben Bullard

Ben Bullard

Licensed Physical Therapist, PT, DPT // Dry Needling Certified // Director, EW Motion Therapy Meadowbrook

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It is easy for any level of athlete to feel the pressure to succeed, whether from peers, parents, or coaches. You don’t want to be a weak link in your team, and to not let them down, you have to keep yourself fit and performing at your highest potential. You can achieve this through customized coaching and some extra practice, but it is too easy for a little extra practice to become overwhelming and even harmful to your body. So how much is too much? And what can you do if/when you get hurt? 


A structured training program can help you avoid overtraining, but if you get hurt, an injury could cost you your season or, worst of all, your career. A physical therapy program can help you heal and get back to your sport. We help athletes of all ages at EW Motion Therapy learn what their bodies can handle, so they can prevent injury before it happens. We can also work with coaches to develop training programs that respect your body’s limits while pushing you to be your best. Even if you decide that our services do not fit your needs, we still want to discuss overtraining and how you can combat its effects. 


This article explains why it is easy to overtrain without realizing it, the importance of taking time off, and how physical therapy can help you avoid overtraining. With this information, you can work with your coach to ensure you continue to improve while preventing injury. 


Download our Physical Therapy Q&A Here!


Why is it easy to make overtraining a habit? 

One of the primary culprits behind overtraining is ambition. A drive to succeed and be the best in your sport is admirable and arguably necessary for any athlete to excel. However, it can become harmful when the ambition outweighs what your body can handle. Additionally, your drive can be amplified by pressure from outside sources, like coaches, teammates, or parents. Ambition and peer pressure together can become a recipe for overtraining and injuries. 


An example is travel baseball - many players will join a travel team during their school team’s off-season to get more experience and get in front of scouts for scholarships. While this is an admirable effort to improve their game, many of these players are young and still growing, and growing bodies need time to rest and recover after an intense baseball season. 


Why is it important for athletes to take time off? 

Time off is just as vital for success as any structured training program. Any athlete that does not prioritize rest in their recovery puts themselves at a higher risk of injury and burnout. But while not playing your sport for a while can be beneficial, this does not mean you stop altogether. While you let your body rest from your sport, you can train it in other areas. For example, if you are a gymnast who works on flexibility during your competition season, you could work on strength and stability while you are not competing. 


Also, if you are a dedicated athlete of one sport, it might be beneficial to try a different sport. Even Michael Jordan took time off his basketball career to play baseball, and he arguably returned to the court stronger. Movement variability from other sports promotes a well-rounded approach, which can make you a better athlete in the long run. If you play football for your school, try basketball or baseball during your off-season - the options are endless. 


Cross-training is important not just for athletes, but for anyone looking for a well-rounded fitness routine. Learn more about its benefits here.


How can physical therapy help you avoid overtraining? 

You can always discuss overtraining with your coach or a professional within your sport. However, a physical therapist can be a great professional on your health team if you want to focus on preventing injury or recovering from an existing one. They can assess your current movements to find any deficits or weaknesses to prevent injury. From there, they can tailor interventions in the clinic and a home exercise program to address your areas of improvement and help you get stronger. Suppose you have been sidelined due to an injury, or are just experiencing a decrease in your performance. In that case, a physical therapist can implement solutions to gradually build back strength without injuring yourself further. This can be difficult to accomplish without professional help.


Additionally, a physical therapist can work with your coach to determine the appropriate timelines and intensity of your therapy. The line of communication must remain open so that your coach and physical therapist are on the same page and can work together to get you where you need to be by the time your season starts.


How else can athletes stay strong?

Now you know more about overtraining and how it can affect your performance. Taking advantage of your off-season is essential to returning stronger. For example, a baseball player may implement a throwing program during the off-season to strengthen their arm. But even if you just try a different skill during the off-season, the experience is almost guaranteed to make you a stronger, more well-rounded athlete. 


Ambition and peer pressure can make it easy to overtrain, but no athlete wants to be sidelined with an injury before they have a chance to shine. This is why, even if you are not injured, physical therapy can be an essential part of your long-term success, whether your goals are becoming your high school’s quarterback or joining the NFL. If you are curious about what else physical therapy can do for you, click the button below to download our answers to 20 frequently-asked physical therapy questions. 


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