I’d think you’d agree with me when I say that combat sports athletes, whether it be Brazilian jiu-jitsu, wrestling, Muay Thai, boxing or any other style of martial arts has some of the most passionate practitioners. The problem is that many fighters and athletes find themselves overtraining due to their love for martial arts. In this article, I’m going to explain 9 harmful dangers of overtraining.
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Signs and Symptoms of Overtraining
- Frequent Injury or Common Pain
- Excessive & Chronic Soreness
- Decreased Performance
- Aching Joints
- Excessive Fatigue
- Loss of Appetite
- Craving Junk Food
- Weakened Immune System
- Mood Changes
- Insomnia or Changes In Sleeping Patterns
- A lack of Motivation or Interest
One or two of these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean you’re overtraining. However, if you are experiencing multiple symptoms on this list, you may want to pay attention to the potential that you’re overtrained.
Who’s At Risk?
The athletes and practitioners that are most at risk of overtraining are overachievers and ambitious individuals. Striving to become a better fighter or practitioner is a great quality to have but if you’re being pushed past extreme intensity on a regular basis, you will become susceptible to the dangers of overtraining.
Athletes that consistently train without allowing for proper rest and recovery are at risk. Those that do not utilize a healthy nutrition plan to complement their active lifestyles are also at great risk for overtraining.
Competitive athletes and professional fighters are often the most at risk as their livelihood and success are largely determined by how much you train and learn within a short period of time. This competitive environment pushes athletes and fighters to go beyond their limits on a regular basis. This type of added stress and pressure often causes athletes to become chronically overtrained.
How Common Is Overtraining in Martial Arts Practitioners?
Overtraining can be extremely common amongst martial arts practitioners due to the nature of the sport. Wear and tear on the body’s joints, fatigue to the muscles, and mental stress from the vast amount of techniques available to learn can often leave people overwhelmed.
Combat sports involving sparring can cause even more physical damage when compared to other non-contact sports. If a practitioner decides to include strength and conditioning sport-specific workouts, their ability to recover from training can often be diminished.
Being aware of your levels of training intensity and being progressive in your approach to avoiding overtraining can have significant benefits for the longevity of your career/practise as a martial artist.
9 Dangers of Overtraining
Consistent training can have amazing health benefits for the mind and body. The problem is that many MMA fighters and martial arts practitioners don’t understand the harms of overtraining. I am going to show you nine harmful reasons why overtraining is dangerous.
Poor Results and Performance
Whether you are training to become the next MMA or Brazilian jiu-jitsu champion or simply looking to improve upon yourself through physical training, you may want to be aware of the potential downside towards your overall performance.
Elite Judo athletes were subjects of this study. After six weeks of increased training intensity to their regular training regime, the study showed that overtraining may affect some aspects of performance even before symptoms appeared.
Increased Risk of Injuries
Being injured from combat sports is a common occurrence due to the nature of the sport. When paired with additional factors such as poor diet, reduced quality of sleep, a lack of rest and recovery, a disaster is just waiting to happen.
Training causes damage to the body but when given enough rest, it can help develop and build upon your musculoskeletal system. If you are overtraining and not allowing time for rest, a rise in the risk of injuries occurs due to weakened joints and muscles.
Lowered Quality of Sleep
Sleep is one of the most important aspects of overall health and is crucial for combat sports athletes. Overtraining has been shown to lower sleep quality.
A study conducted by the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise Journal confirms sleep disturbances in endurance athletes who overtrained. A poor night’s sleep can dramatically harm both athletic performance and overall health. Be aware of your training output next time you are exhausted but still tossing and turning in bed. Experiencing insomnia while physically tired can be a clear sign of overtraining.
The function of the adrenal glands is to produce essential hormones that help regulate the immune system, metabolism, blood pressure, response to stress, and other crucial functions.
Combat sports, whether it is Mixed Martial Arts, BJJ, muay thai, boxing, wrestling or any other fight simulating activity can cause a quick depletion in adrenal function. This is due to the sport’s natural ability to help the body produce elevated levels of adrenaline.
This study shows the connection between chronically overtrained athletes and adrenal depletion. Along with overtraining, highly stressful events or chronic minor stressors may influence a quicker depletion of adrenal hormone production as well. Learning how to lower adrenaline levels at appropriate times can help your adrenal glands recover from intense workouts and daily stress.
Weakened Immune System
This is a major problem in combat sports, especially in grappling arts such as wrestling, judo, Brazilian jiu-jitsu etc. The reason for this is that close proximity and skin to skin contact with training partners are common in these activities. Overtraining and a weak immune system can leave you feeling absolutely terrible and expose your team to a long list of pathogens, bacteria, and viruses.
Reading Submission Shark’s articles while you are sick and/or overtrained is a great way to feed your passion for martial arts and train your intelligence while you are resting your body and improving your immune function.
A change in mood can be caused by many different factors but overtraining has been associated with a lowered ability to tolerate stress. This study shows that overtraining results in irrational anger towards minor occurrences as well as unexplained depression. Improve your mood and maintain control of your mental health by being aware of your intensity levels and recovery times in your workouts and training sessions.
Muscle Wasting and Decreased Strength
Many martial arts practitioners, athletes, and fighters look to improve their strength through physical activity. This is the correct way to improve strength as momentarily deteriorating the muscles with physical exercise helps to rebuild them stronger during the recovery period. However, if the rest period that’s needed to build muscle mass and strength is neglected or if there isn’t enough time and resources available due to overtraining, atrophy (muscle wasting) can occur.
The importance of strength in combat sports and general life should not be ignored. A lack of exercise has been shown to create atrophy within the muscles but this study also confirms the same negative effect if overtraining occurs.
These substances (electrolytes) are essential for a number of bodily functions, including maintaining healthy hydration levels. Some examples of electrolytes are sodium, potassium, calcium and bicarbonate.
The dangers of electrolyte imbalance include:
- Irregular Heartbeats
- Bone Disorders
- Sudden Changes of Blood Pressure
- Mental Fatigue and Confusion
- Nervous System Problems
- Muscle Spasms
Along with understanding overtraining and optimizing your rest and recovery, including plenty of vegetables and fruits can help you maintain healthy levels of electrolytes.
Exercise utilizes electrolytes to help the muscles function optimally and overtraining can quickly cause electrolyte imbalances. If you have been training intensely and have been experiencing some of the symptoms above, it may be beneficial to take a few days off and replenish your electrolyte levels.
High Levels of Cortisol
Cortisol is a naturally occurring stress hormone that the body produces. It helps to control blood sugar levels, regulate metabolism, reduce inflammation, and helps with memory. Elevated levels of cortisol can cause higher levels of stress and lowered ability to heal and recover from training due to being in a consistent state of ‘fight or flight’.
Frequent intense training should be accompanied by rest days to help ensure proper rest and help avoid overtraining. Additional stressors may push you past your limits. I suggest learning how to avoid burnout to better optimize your energy levels and recovery abilities.
What To Do If You Are Overtrained.
Now that you know how dangerous overtraining is, I highly suggest you check out this helpful guide on how to prevent and recover from overtraining. Another game-changing way to optimize your performance is to check out this article from Nattie Boss, a BJJ brown belt on how to structure your life as an athlete. My final advice would be to utilize the flow state, ancient martial arts philosophy to prevent overtraining.