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  • Writer's pictureRebecca Onley

Overtraining and Burn Out

Training smarter not harder is the key to avoiding burn out.


You may think that training for longer periods, more frequently, and more intensely will improve your results. However, this approach is generally unsustainable and can lead to burn out and increase your risk of injury (and illness).


Here are symptoms of burn out:


  • Impaired muscle function

  • Physical fatigue

  • Weakness

  • Loss of coordination

  • Loss of balance

  • Impaired cognitive function

  • Mental fatigue

  • Reduced concentration

  • Impaired decision making

  • Impaired memory and recall


As a dancer or athlete, these are all crucial components for progress so you can see how overtraining is detrimental to your success.


That's it in a nutshell but carry on reading for the science!


Here are some of the ways in which over training can lead to burn out...


Exercise stimulates muscle protein synthesis which is essential for muscle repair and growth. Overtraining doesn't allow adequate time for this process to happen and leads to a breakdown of muscle tissue. Not only does this results in weaker muscles but ATP (energy) is created in the mitochondria of cells. A loss of muscle mass is like closing down the factories that produce the bodies energy supply, leading to fatigue.


ROS (Reactive Oxygen Species) are a by-product of exercise, which serve a purpose and are fine in moderation. Too much exercise leads to a build up of ROS and oxidative stress which causes cellular damage, including proteins, lipids, and DNA. Oxidative stress impairs muscle function, increases inflammation, and causes fatigue. ROS can also interfere with neurotransmitter function causing mental fatigue, mood disturbances, and cognitive ability.


Adequate sleep is critical for physical and mental recovery. During sleep growth hormone is released which stimulates tissue repair and growth throughout the body and brain. Sleep deprivation or poor quality sleep can disrupt hormone balance, immune function, increase susceptibility to illness and injury, impact performance and cognitive function.


Train smarter:

  • Understand your anatomy so that you can target muscles/skills in an efficient way.

  • Schedule days of rest - ideally 4 days of training then 3 days of rest.

  • Eat the right foods at the right time and stay hydrated.


A simple rule to remember is that when output exceeds recovery for too long then burn out will set in. Like everything, balance is key.

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