Overtrained !!!

OVERTRAINED!!   Last week, I was diagnosed by my sports doc as having Overtraining Syndrome or OTS.  OTS is caused by an imbalance between stress (from all sources) and recovery over a period of time.  So, too much stress or too little recovery or both.  As a result, your endocrine system goes a little haywire and fatigue becomes chronic, no matter how much rest you get.  Other symptoms include performance decreases, quick to fatigue in training, irregularities in sleep, and mood swings for no apparent reason.  I have ALL the symptoms.  There’s no biomarker for OTS, so the diagnosis is made by ruling out all other causes for the symptoms.  

To be clear, we’re not talking about acute training fatigue or overreaching.  Both of those situations are healthy and productive.  The body is taxed and then, with rest, comes back stronger.  Throughout my triathlon career, my coaches have aimed for overreaching.  I’d train hard for three weeks, become exhausted, and then spend a few days resting.  During those rest days, my body recovered, and I’d come back stronger and ready for the next block.  But in November through February this year, my stress and recovery were not balanced – and bingo, I entered the world of OTS.

A lot has been written in the popular sports media about causes and warning signs of OTS, but virtually no one has written about how they came to be overtrained, how they progressed through the process of healing from OTS, or what markers they used to determine if they were coming back from OTS and should add more time or intensity to their training.  I did find a Daily Stoic podcast featuring Bob Bowman, where Bowman talked about how he had overtrained Michael Phelps and gave a lot of insight into overtraining from a coach’s perspective.  But other than that, I found nothing about the journey of healing from OTS.

And so, I decided to write about my OTS journey in this blog.  I hope my words may help all athletes and coaches become better acquainted with OTS, the importance of recovery, and how it’s so easy to enter into an OTS vortex.  I also hope my writing might help those with OTS maybe take comfort in knowing that they aren’t alone.  

To start, I’ll talk about 1) how my doctor – who is wonderful – diagnosed my OTS and share his advice, 2) how I became overtrained which is incredibly complicated and confusing, and 3) my symptoms and how I managed them – physically and mentally, and how I knew when to add volume and intensity back into my training.

And of course, a disclaimer:  OTS is a medical condition involving the endocrine system.  I am not a doctor or a researcher.  I am simply sharing my story as an athlete.  If you think you have or are approaching OTS, please talk to your coach and doctor.

Stay tuned . . .


Road to Worlds 2024 (Torremolinos, Spain) . . .

Training Update:  Still in overtraining mode:  40-60 minutes of mega-easy bike, swim, or walk in the morning to keep the blood flowing and spirits up, then a nap and lunch, followed by 20 minutes of stretching in the afternoon.  Did my walk last Saturday on the Indy 500 5K course with 3,500 others who were out running and walking in the event.

Writing Update:   I’ve restarted my blog!! Yay!   Been playing with book #2 for quite some time.  Keep changing directions.  The current working title is Strong Enough.  It’s a book about my quest over the past four years to discover if a level of mental strength existed that was so far above me, I didn’t even know it existed. 

Speaking Update:    I was honored to present the Opening Keynote this spring at a conference hosted by the Seminole Public Schools in Sanford, Florida.  Had a great time talking about the process of improvement with a group of energized educators!  Instead of accepting the speakers fee, I donated it to the school district.  They used it to send eight educators to a leadership conference.  Yay!  Love learning.  Love helping others learn.

CHASING DREAMS features blogs about lessons I’ve learned about high performance and the process of improvement from my first career with the American Student Achievement Institute, a non-profit organization that I founded and directed for 20 years prior to my early retirement, and my second “career” as a serious age-group triathlete, transitioning from dead last at local 5K events (while weighing 335 pounds) to standing on the top podium at the Triathlon Age Group World Championship as a two-time world champion.    NEWSLETTER SIGN-UP:  Click here to be notified about future blogs.


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