Overtraining and Burnout in Sports: How Much is too Much? – Jackson Free (Exercise and Sports Scientist)

As athletes progress through the ranks of their sport, the physical demands intensify, requiring them to increase their workloads to keep up with the competition standard. This process is often a driving motivation that keeps athletes working hard to achieve their goals. However, there is a fine line between maximising an athlete’s physical performance, and training too much – to the point of injury and potentially dropping out of their sports due to burnout.
Burnout is characterised by a prolonged experience of emotional and physical exhaustion, reduced sense of accomplishment and devaluation of sport participation because of enduring stress. These stressors could be physical (from training and playing) to emotional and mental (from social outcomes and studies). Unfortunately, all these factors are commonly present in young athletes, as high-school and university level individuals have to balance the toils of high-performance sport and education.
To avoid burnout, it is important to manage the stressors and prioritise what the athletes feels is most important. Balance is key. This may often be choosing education over sport and allowing them to manage the demands of high school / university rather than training for their sport. In many cases it will see them better off in the long-term, for both their sport and their studies
Also, being able to detach from their sport and other stressors will be best for their emotional and mental health. Holidays, hobbies and even just relaxing at home can help boost emotional state and allow athletes to avoid over exposure to the stressful parts of their life. Prioritising mental health, will often result in the greatest outcomes for athlete’s sport and studies. If you are feeling the stress of balancing your spots and other important aspects of your day to day life, discuss this within one of our Sports Scientists, who can adjust your physical workload to help keep balance with the stress other factors may be having on you. Remember that in stressful situations mental health takes priority over physical ability.