Considerations for Common Overtraining Injuries
We all know and understand the importance of consistency with exercise. Training on a regular schedule is an important piece of success, especially for those trying to accomplish a goal like running a 5k or losing weight. But one of the nasty repercussions which can result from sustained and consistent training is the very human capacity for pushing ourselves too far, dramatically increasing the risk of injury.
Sometimes, it can be difficult to determine the symptoms of overtraining. What is “too much” for someone who is trying to improve an aspect of their conditioning? It’s so subjective that it can be difficult to define. This is especially true of young athletes, endurance athletes, or those who have taken an extended break and are trying to dive back in without giving their body enough recovery time in between workouts.
As such, there are several common overtraining injuries which we'll go over here. Hopefully, you can use this guide to better counsel your clients on how to prevent overuse injuries which can be major setbacks when trying to achieve goals. Injuries, especially sports injuries, can take clients away from you and away from training toward their goals. So, keeping these points in mind isn’t just the right thing to do—it can be a career saver!
Signs and Symptoms
There are many ways to tell if your client has a common overtraining injury, the most obvious of which is pain or strong discomfort. Some overtraining symptoms have more to do with muscles and tendons, and some have more to do with bones and joints, depending on the training program.
Initially, you want to assess what’s going on based on how often you feel pain during regular movement. For instance, does something happen just when you run? Or maybe your shoulder has a sharp pain when you return a serve on the tennis court?
Pain is going to be the first indicator, but pain in a way that is different from one-time impacts from blunt force or something like an abrasion. In some instances, muscle and joint inflammation can also be an indicator of an overtraining injury. However, in mind that it can be difficult to determine if something like consistent ankle sprains or muscle soreness might be indicative of a deeper issue. It’s also important to point out that occasionally, as is the case with shin splints for some runners, your body might even mask the pain you would feel during your workouts, only to flare back up later that evening.
To ensure that a seemingly small injury isn’t something worse, be sure to get it checked out by a doctor. If something has been painful on a regular basis, only a doctor can determine whether your injury is what’s causing the pain or if it’s related to something more involved. And always make sure that your clients have been cleared by an appropriate medical professional. The last thing you want to do as a personal trainer is make someone worse off than when they found you.
Age Plays a Factor
In terms of dealing with overtraining injuries, age plays a significant role. Although all training age groups can get hit with injuries, age usually has a huge impact on recovery time. For instance, take two runners, one who’s 18 and one who’s 38, and both are training for a 10K race. Separated by twenty years, there are a lot of factors that increase risk of injury which are directly related to age. Let’s say they were both lifting on their resistance training days for muscular endurance, and in the process, they both injure their right knee. Usually, young athletes have the ability to recover more quickly from similar issues. This is not to say it will happen in all cases, but in a head to head comparison, the 38-year-old runner is at increased risk also of not giving an injury the extended time older adults often need for recovery,
One of the only ways to truly recover, regardless of age, is to see a medical professional. They might recommend a physical therapist, or restrict certain physical activity. Trust them. They have both your and your clients’ best interests at heart. Anti-inflammatory medication can sometimes be helpful, but again, you should speak to a professional in sports medicine about your own unique circumstances and to ensure that all relevant factors have been considered.
Monitor Intensity Over Time
Sometimes, there can be an injury that doesn’t necessarily show itself clearly at first. That’s why it’s important to keep a sharp eye out for overtraining symptoms. This is especially important when you’re increasing the intensity of your clients’ workouts to grow toward a goal.
Often, when too much intensity is added to a client’s workouts too soon, repetitive stress on one particular section of the body will result. That’s why it’s essential that you keep in constant contact with your clients, checking in on the muscle groups, joints, and sections of the body most affected by your training regimen.
Sometimes negative feedback in the body for overuse incidents can take the form of muscle soreness. A client can usually tell the difference between general soreness and the soreness from an injury, but it’s still something to be mindful of.
Also, consider having clients use a heart rate monitor when exercising outside of your sessions. The heart rate monitor can track intensity to help clients ensure they don’t overdo it when you can’t be there to watch over them.
Overall, just be careful when upping the intensity of your programs for your clients. Always remember that an injury that puts them on the sidelines isn’t just harmful to the person, it’s also harmful to your bottom line. As a trainer, not only is it your ethical obligation to ensure your clients are in the best condition you can influence, it’s also a cornerstone of your business.
Type of Exercise Matters
Whether you are lifting, running, cycling, or playing a sport, a host of other factors will influence how overtraining injuries manifest themselves. It’s really about knowing the types of injuries which are common to the exercises your clients are performing.
With strength exercises like squats and lunges, you have a higher risk profile on a client’s knee. The repetitive stress of running long distance can cause shin splints which are painful and can dramatically inhibit training. Even low-impact heart rate training like walking can cause issues such as ankle sprains and the like, especially if your clients are older.
For issues like shin splints or sprains from running, make sure your clients are icing the affected areas, getting plenty of rest, and are stretching properly before and after workouts, as well as throughout their normal day-to-day lives. This is especially important in the beginning as new runners are just starting out.
Endurance athletes often have some of the highest rates of overtraining injuries due to the nature of their sport. When covering vast distances in a triathlon, there’s simply more opportunity to injure the body. So being mindful of what the body is telling you is paramount for limiting these issues.
Sports Injuries Are Common
Sports are an amazing way for everyday people to stay fit and get their heart rate up. However, sports also bring with them the risk of overtraining injuries. With many sports, like tennis, baseball, or golf, the physical activity itself requires you to repeat the same motion over and over again for success.
One way to ensure that you or your client will be on the sidelines for a while is to “play through the pain.” This is an antiquated notion, and something that is almost guaranteed to cause more serious injury. For instance, if your knee or ankle feels a slight tweak every time you swing a golf club or tennis racket, it might be something minor, but it could be an issue with a tendon or ligament. That’s why it’s so important to have injuries checked out by a doctor, and, as the fitness professional, to observe all medical advice when writing a training program for your clients. Competition is a great way to reinforce fitness, just so long as it isn’t taken too far.
Dealing with an Injury
With lower level issues for relatively healthy people, the most common go-to solutions are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, also known as NSAIDs. While these can be very helpful, you should make sure to consult with a doctor or pharmacist before using them. Although side effects are generally rare, only a medical professional can ensure NSAIDs are safe to take.
Basic inflammation can result from something minor like a light sprain, or it could be indicative of a more severe problem. This is why taking an NSAID is not always the best approach. Especially if a condition persists, it may be necessary to see a sports medicine professional such as a physical therapist. Your doctor will be able to refer you should this be necessary.
Ultimately, you want to be on the lookout for symptoms of overtraining, for yourself and your clients. Encouraging proper form at all times is the first responsibility you have as a personal trainer. This, in combination with vigilance, will ensure that you are serving your clients well and looking out for their best interests.
For more great information like this, check out ISSA’s Care and Prevention of Sports Injuries course today, and learn how to keep your clients at their best.