Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Too MUCH Physical Activity?

WHAT?! Is that possible? Would I ever say so? Well, this little post regards over training in our children and adolescents. Ah so, the rarety of maladies as lack of activity is by far the greater problem.

Still, there is enough of a concern as to warrant several pages of text in a recent ACSM journal. The article discusses over reaching, over training, over use injury, burnout, compensation, acute fatigue, adequate and inadequate recovery and training error.

There are some children who are very active in school sports and train very hard for them. There is concern that parents, coaches and inner competition can lead to over training without ample time for recovery. Some controversy exists also as to the benefit of sport specific activities for younger athletes. No official guidelines exist but some suggest no more than 5 days of training in a row, with a complete rest day from organized sports. Others say that special medical monitoring should occur if children are spending more than 18 hours a week involved in these sports activities. It isn't only interscholastic sports however, there has been about a 50% increase in gym membership for those under the age of 18, since 1990. Obviously, all youth is not at the gym, the latest number is about 4 million enrolled.

So what do you need to know? Over reaching can be a technique that improves performance. It is a period of intense training that causes acute fatigue but is followed by adequate recovery (the body compensates and comes back stronger) . This is sometimes referred to as a taper. This is seen in some marathon training programs for example. Over training starts the same, but there is not adequate recovery. Over training can lead to negative attitude, loss of pleasure in the activity and most seriously, an over use injury. Over training is also called burnout.

Over use injuries can be caused by bio mechanics, history of previous injury, lack of conditioning, improper foot wear, and training error. However, training error is the main cause of most.

Training error is either too much for too long OR too much too soon. I.e. some are fit and train too hard and some begin training when they are in poor condition and train too hard.

Sometimes when athletes young or old are driven, from within or without, they think off days are lost days, but it is far from true. The body needs that day off to compensate, to rebuild and restore. I have read many an Olympian quote in my Runners World magazine which promote the sanctity of the rest day.

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