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What happens if you train too hard?

Ultra running

Overtraining may be a result of several weeks or months with too much or too hard training. This will give both physical and psychological symptoms. It may however be difficult to interprete the signals given by the body. If you for example get restless and uncomfortable when not training, it may be a signal that you train too hard and are overtrained.

I experienced this myself several times during my career as a top athlete, and it is a rather normal experience for those who are training a lot. It is however a big advantage if you catch these signals at an early stage, so you can avoid to “hit the wall”. If you let it go too far, it may take a long time to recover.

Physical signs of overtraining

Some physical signs that you are training too hard are:

  • No progress, even if you intensivate your training
  • Your resting pulse has increased
  • A high frequence of minor injuries
  • Abstinence and restlessness in your body if you skip training
  • You easily get sick, due to low defence in your immune system
  • You are generally tired and feel somewhat exhausted
  • Bad sleep

If you are using a pulse watch, it may help you to follow up your resting pulse, falling pulse etc.

Another risk of too hard training is to get atrial fibrillation. Read more about it further below in the article.

Psychological signs of overtraining

  • The training has become a too central part of your whole life
  • You train even if you are sick
  • If you cannot train as you have planned, you get in a bad mood
  • You are training more and more and are never satisfied.

Take these signs serious, and do something about it. It is not so difficult, as long as you are aware of it and are willing to listen to the signals.

Atrial fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation Regular training reduces the risk of atrial fibrillation. However, if the training is too hard, the probability of getting atrial fibrillation is very high. Remember this if you are training and want a healthy benefit out of your training.

A research project that was made in Tromsø, Norway, demonstrated clearly that those who are moderately physical active had a low risk of atrial fibrillation, while those who were training very high also had a high risk of getting atrial fibrillation.

According to Bente Morseth, scientist in Tromsø, research indicates that many years of endurance training may change the structure and the function of the heart in such a way the the risk of atrial fibrillation increases.

I myself have been a person that has been training endurance since I was 14 years old, until I was 40 years. This was training that lead to setting many world records. I still perform endurance training, but luckily I have avoided any signs of atrial fibrillation. Probably I have not been training so hard as many of the persons in the research projects did. Something to think about, isn’t it?

Train at least four hours per week

The research project which Bente Morseth based her conclusions on, was started in Tromsø in 1986, where 20 484 particiants documented their resting pulse and reported their physical level of activity themselves (which of course is a source of error that should be considered)

These persons were followed up by the scientists during many years. In 2010 it was confirmed that 750 of the particiants suffered from atrial fibrillation, once or more. After correction of the results based on age, gender, smoking, BMI, height, diseases, etc., it turned out that those with moderate physical activity, lasting at least 4 hours per week, had the lowest probability of atrial fibrillation.

Higher risk at hard training

The risk if getting atrial fibrillation was 19% lower among those with moderate physical activity than those who stated they had little activity. For those who reported at least four hours physical activity per week, the risk was the same as for those who were inactive. The inactive had better results than those who stated that they performed hard training or hard competitions every week. Those who were training hard had 37% higher risk for atrial fibrillation than those who were not training at all. (However, the group who was not training at all was very small, so the results for this group is statistically uncertain.)

A low resting pulse, meaning below 50 strokes per minute, also turned out to be a risk factor for atrial fibrillation.

Source: Forskning.no

Read more about training for running and the physical basis for this here:

Author: Ingrid Kristiansen

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