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Over Training Syndrome (OTS)

HilTriHilTri Posts: 224Member, Premium Member Posts: 224Member, Premium Member
I am very active and usually burn 1200-1600 cals per day from dedicated exercise as opposed to my BMR. I love, love, love working out, primarily spin, weights and elliptical. I usually work out 6-7 days per week with one day being active rest. I was starting to feel run down and unable to perform as I did initially. I went on a fishing trip for the day (a catered event where they always have loads of food and drinks). It was a very hot day on the water and the organizers only brought 6 little bottles of water for 12 people a couple Gatorades and some Coke the rest was beer, an abundance of beer. I don’t drink alcohol or sugar drinks. I drank a big bottle of water before I got on the boat in anticipation of drinks being provided. I got super dehydrated, light headed, confused, feet were swollen, it was bad. I drank a lot of water when we got back to shore but I swear that messed me up for a couple days. I just couldn’t get back into exercise after and still felt exhausted, my muscles and joints hurt, the thought of exercise was too much. I went to the gym, ate, napped, had lunch, napped, dinner and went to bed for several days. I went to my doctor two weeks later and was diagnosed with OTS. My doctor told me to rest, drink a gallon of water per day for several days along with some electrolytes and my normal healthy diet. I am on day 4 of rest and am starting to feel better and am losing weight (probably because I am not lifting). The doc said getting dehydrated probably contributed to OTS because my body was already run down. My questions are has anyone else experienced OTS? How long does it last? Does any specific thing help speed up recovery? I used Normatec recovery boots (a muscle compression recovery system) and am going for walks. I am not sleeping well and I just want my groove back. Any suggestions?
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Replies

  • eoseideoseid Posts: 4Member Member Posts: 4Member Member
    Hello HilTri,

    I am not terribly familiar with OTS, as I am more of a sedentary person who has to force myself to do what is good for me (exercise), however, I read a review article that suggests that it may be months before you feel back to normal.

    Apparently, the syndrome is thought to be brought on by too high a ratio of exercise to rest. While I get that you want to get back to your normal, you should consider that your old normal may have been too much, and think towards prevention. The review article (Sports Health. 2012 Mar; 4(2): 128–138.
    doi: 10.1177/1941738111434406) mentions the following preventative measures:

    Preventative measures for nonfunctional overreaching/overtraining syndrome.

    Periodization of training
    Tapering for competition
    Adjust training volume and intensity based on performance and mood
    Ensure adequate calories for training load
    Ensure adequate hydration
    Ensure adequate carbohydrate ingestion during exercise
    Ensure adequate sleep
    Promoting mental toughness or resilience as buffer
    Rest period of greater than 6 hours between exercise bouts
    Abstinence of training following infection, heat stroke/stress, periods of high stress
    Avoid extreme environmental conditions
    Utilize Profile of Mood States (or stress level) and alter training load

    Interestingly, it is believed that even non physical stressors can trigger an adverse response in people who train hard, so it seems that one should consider life stresses when thinking about how much one should train, basically giving your body time to recover from any stressors.

    Your observation that you were not able to perform as you had is a warning sign that you need to back off and give yourself more rest. I also read that you should pay close attention to your waking heart rate. Check it before you get out of bed. If it is 10-15 bpm higher than your normal, you should take it easy. Also, if you have insomnia, that can be a sign to allow yourself more recovery time. If you do not see a sports medicine doctor, it may be wise to find one who can help you negotiate your recovery and get back on track in a way that will not cause further damage. Good luck!

    Cheers,

    E
  • DjproulxDjproulx Posts: 1,364Member Member Posts: 1,364Member Member
    HilTri wrote: »
    I am very active and usually burn 1200-1600 cals per day from dedicated exercise as opposed to my BMR. I love, love, love working out, primarily spin, weights and elliptical. I usually work out 6-7 days per week with one day being active rest. I was starting to feel run down and unable to perform as I did initially. I went on a fishing trip for the day (a catered event where they always have loads of food and drinks). It was a very hot day on the water and the organizers only brought 6 little bottles of water for 12 people a couple Gatorades and some Coke the rest was beer, an abundance of beer. I don’t drink alcohol or sugar drinks. I drank a big bottle of water before I got on the boat in anticipation of drinks being provided. I got super dehydrated, light headed, confused, feet were swollen, it was bad. I drank a lot of water when we got back to shore but I swear that messed me up for a couple days. I just couldn’t get back into exercise after and still felt exhausted, my muscles and joints hurt, the thought of exercise was too much. I went to the gym, ate, napped, had lunch, napped, dinner and went to bed for several days. I went to my doctor two weeks later and was diagnosed with OTS. My doctor told me to rest, drink a gallon of water per day for several days along with some electrolytes and my normal healthy diet. I am on day 4 of rest and am starting to feel better and am losing weight (probably because I am not lifting). The doc said getting dehydrated probably contributed to OTS because my body was already run down. My questions are has anyone else experienced OTS? How long does it last? Does any specific thing help speed up recovery? I used Normatec recovery boots (a muscle compression recovery system) and am going for walks. I am not sleeping well and I just want my groove back. Any suggestions?

    My suggestion: Time.

    Unfortunately, I don't have any silver bullet to offer, but I am somewhat familiar with the symptoms and have a couple friends who have been diagnosed with OTS. Your fishing trip experience reminded me of several occasions where I got behind on fluid and electrolytes and was close to passing out. One particularly bad episode occurred while I was on my bike and I caught myself nodding off in the middle of a high speed descent. It was scary.

    Regarding OTS recovery, one of my tri club teammates is a spin instructor who suffered from OTS symptoms this winter. She hit a stretch of heavy training in Feb and it caught up to her during an indoor coached cycling session. The coach (and everyone else) noticed that her performance was substantially diminished during the session and she eventually stopped before the indoor ride was over. She visited the Doc and was told to take some time off, before slowly resuming her normal training. She took a week off, then did only light spinning for another week. During this time, she focused on increased fluid and electrolyte intake, as well as eating enough. One indicator that she was recovering was a return to her normal sleeping pattern and a morning resting heart rate that had declined from the elevated state it had been in.

    Best of luck with your recovery.
  • lorrpblorrpb Posts: 10,439Member Member Posts: 10,439Member Member
    It sounds like your body was really stressed and thrown off balance. Intuitively I’d say give it a couple of weeks, just like it takes awhile to recover from even a small cold. Not a medical person and never diagnosed with ots.
  • HilTriHilTri Posts: 224Member, Premium Member Posts: 224Member, Premium Member
    Thanks for your very thoughtful and thorough replies. I think this is going to take longer than anticipated. I look forward to the results of my lab work, hopefully tomorrow. It is so weird for me to not have an appetite, I love food. Anyway, more time is needed that’s for sure. Thank you.
  • AzdakAzdak Posts: 8,008Member Member Posts: 8,008Member Member
    Referencing a previous thread on the topic—THIS is overtraining.

    This sounds like one of the more serious cases I have heard about, but I don’t think there are any long-lasting effects. I actually think the dehydration is the primary issue here.

    The previous longer post outlines it pretty well: a period of total rest followed by a gradual ramping up your training volume.

    One thing that has helped me when this has happened is during the ramp up period, substituting some relative short threshold interval workouts in place of longer-duration ones. Just enough to bump up the training effect but short enough that you are completely recovered the next day.

    I think the dehydration really provoked this acute episode, but I also think because of your volume of exercise, flirting with overtraining is going to be a regular concern. I’m not saying you should reduce your workload, just be conscious that you are always flying close to the sun and build it into your plans.

    I would also recommend getting a Bluetooth chest strap (eg Polar H7 or newer if they have one) if you don’t have one already and learning about Heart Rate Variability (HRV). An app like HRV Elite is free (still, I think) and you can use it with just a strap (no watch needed). I have not used it extensively as I have not been able to do any serious training for years, but it is one of the better ways to gauge recovery and your physiological readiness to train.
  • HilTriHilTri Posts: 224Member, Premium Member Posts: 224Member, Premium Member
    Thanks Azdak, I read your reply on another over training post. I do have the chest strap, H 10? I think. I use it on my spin bike, I teach spin, only two classes per week. I think you are right on about the dehydration. Actually you are right on in your entire reply. Thanks
  • HilTriHilTri Posts: 224Member, Premium Member Posts: 224Member, Premium Member
    Lesson learned MikePYT. Thank you.
  • MikePfirrmanMikePfirrman Posts: 884Member Member Posts: 884Member Member
    I've recently purchased a HRM after years of not having one. I'm just getting back into harder six day a week training after a semi long time away because of a back injury. I just do a strange niche sport of indoor rowing, but one tip from an old rower struck home with me. If you're like most endurance athletes, you're doing tons of mileage or longer endurance work. One thing I've learned is that sometimes simpler is best.

    One guy shared with me that if your HR drifts more than 5% during your longer, steady state cardio, you're starting out too fast. I've been working on this hard in conjunction with my HRM. Find a sweet spot on your endurance days (the 80% "easy" days from your polarized training) where you can keep your HR from drifting up more than 5%, after warmup. Before doing this, I thought I was working out easy enough, but I wasn't. This tip has helped me immensely and given me the ability to do the hard 20% well and recover without overtraining.

    Good article on it. https://www.uphillathlete.com/heart-rate-drift/

    Medi-Lyte makes a great, simple cheap Electrolyte tablet. Very simple to take with water when your done with a workout. Much cheaper than the crap that's marketed to the athletic community and it has everything you need for pennies.
    edited July 15
  • garystrickland357garystrickland357 Posts: 598Member Member Posts: 598Member Member
    I start by saying I haven’t done more than skim the previous responses. I can tell you though that overtraining is real because I did it.

    About ten years ago I was cycling and running - a lot. I pushed myself and was very goal oriented.

    Then one day - it was hot - I still remember exactly how I felt. I just couldn’t face getting on my bike. I said *kitten* this and walked away. One day turned to two. Then to two weeks. Then to far too long and 80 pounds of weight gain.

    So listen to your body. I found my way back. I lost the weight and I’m back running and cycling. Now I make sure that I have some easy days. Remember the joy of why you started. Give your body time to rest. You can only recover “at the speed of you”.

    Good luck.
  • HilTriHilTri Posts: 224Member, Premium Member Posts: 224Member, Premium Member
    Thank you. The thing that I have learned that is most remarkable is that not many people know about it. I teach spin classes. I am supposed to teach Wednesday and Thursday. I am not feeling right yet so I put out a request for a sub for my classes. My boss asked why I needed a sub basically. I told her what was wrong. This stuff is real.
  • aokoyeaokoye Posts: 2,530Member Member Posts: 2,530Member Member
    The Ask a Trainer Podcast talks about overtraining fairly frequently (all things considering) One of the episodes where it's discussed is this one at around an hour and 17 min in.
  • asochableasochable Posts: 41Member Member Posts: 41Member Member
    Everyone gave great replies. I just want to address the mental component here: do not worry about your weight or “losing” your fitness while you recover!! You probably aren’t losing muscle mass yet (weight lost is probably water weight due to the fact that your muscles have had time to repair themselves and thus don’t need as much water retention) and with the aerobic base you likely had before this, it will come right back as you ease back into your routine! So while it will be a slow return, a few weeks will only set you back those few weeks, so be patient but know that you’ll bounce back just as strong (or stronger) than you were when this happened. I know it’s easier said than done, but be sure to be kind to yourself in the recovery process!!
  • naomi8888naomi8888 Posts: 436Member Member Posts: 436Member Member
    HilTri wrote: »
    Thank you. The thing that I have learned that is most remarkable is that not many people know about it. I teach spin classes. I am supposed to teach Wednesday and Thursday. I am not feeling right yet so I put out a request for a sub for my classes. My boss asked why I needed a sub basically. I told her what was wrong. This stuff is real.

    I always wonder how the instructors do it. I know some that teach 20 classes a week - crazy (but amazing)!
  • HilTriHilTri Posts: 224Member, Premium Member Posts: 224Member, Premium Member
    I will check out the podcast and maybe forward it to my boss ;)! Asochable, I am very concerned about losing my level of fitness and my gains but frankly I feel so blah and tired, I am really listening to my body. I think that this episode has taught me to do that for the first time in my life. Thank you for addressing it.
  • HilTriHilTri Posts: 224Member, Premium Member Posts: 224Member, Premium Member
    Aokoye, that podcast was very informative. They start talking about overtraining at about 1:20 min for those interested in the meat of the podcast.
  • yirarayirara Posts: 4,193Member Member Posts: 4,193Member Member
    I fell into OTS once, doing boxing classes and spinning every day at work (there was a gym in the cellar), and some more workouts during the weekends. It took me two months to be able to do any bit of exercise again. So yeah, I think you're really overdoing it You need more rest days, not active rest but real rest and less long workouts. If this seems impossible to you you might want to look into getting professional help. Seriously! Anorexia athletica is a thing.
    edited July 16
  • HilTriHilTri Posts: 224Member, Premium Member Posts: 224Member, Premium Member
    Yirara, thank you, I have never heard of anorexia athletica. Who knew there was such a thing?
  • gradchica27gradchica27 Posts: 524Member Member Posts: 524Member Member
    I’ve never been diagnosed with OTS, but suspect I was flirting with it not long ago—poor sleep (hard to fall asleep, woke up often), extreme fatigue, excess sweating, everything felt way harder than it should have, no desire to go to the gym when it’s usually something I look forward to.

    A deload week followed by a week of doing nothing on vacation and then gradual ramp up seems to have staved it off for me, but I am trying to be more vigilant about actually resting and taking a day off, not packing in too many “fun” active activities on top of my normal routine (I was doing two extra lifting sessions training a friend, and at least one night of climbing/kayaking per week, plus my regular 5 days of lifting/light cardio and 1 day of HIIT).

    All that to say I am still seriously mulling over getting the WHOOP band, solely for its strain metrics, thinking having something objective to tell me I’m overdoing it and to take a light day or rest day might be more likely to get me to do it (instead of just pushing through). Perhaps something to look into for you as well. What has kept me from pulling the trigger is the price.
  • MostlyWaterMostlyWater Posts: 4,074Member Member Posts: 4,074Member Member
    It's not easy, especially as we age.

    All I can say is listen to your body - not your head. A rest day is beneficial - and if 2 are in order, take them. Either an whole weekend off, or one day off during the week and one during off during the weekend.

    See how it works for you.
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