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Physiotherapy tips on avoiding over-training

As a physiotherapist over-training is a major reason people get injured and end up coming for physiotherapy to put them back together again.

I see people with demanding jobs who also train regularly and at high intensity. This results in them not having enough time for recovery – namely rest, sleep and decent nutrition. 

​As a result their musculoskeletal system, cardiovascular system and immune systems suffer. They come to physiotherapists and osteopaths with repetitive injuries – the most common being back pain, knee pain and shoulder pain, which become more and more severe and less and less responsive to physiotherapy treatment.

However, they are also more worryingly they are putting undue strain on their heart and lungs as well as causing their immune system not to work properly opening themselves up to coughs, colds, infections and other more serious diseases. The high stress levels can also have an effect on hormones and mood and have a negative impact on psychological function including anxiety and/or depression.

So here are my top physio tips on avoiding over-training:

1) Make your training sessions small but perfectly formed. Short stints of high resistance training (45 mins to cover most muscle groups) every third day is best for building muscle. Interval training is more effective than long plods when it comes to cardiovascular training. The only thing you need proper time for is an endurance session once a week (only if you are training for something involving endurance of course!) or if you are training a skill, for example a sport specific exercises which require high numbers of repetitions on as frequent basis as possible. 

2) Include rest and sleep in your training programme and elevate them above the level of importance you place on actual training sessions. 

3) Get your nutrition right. It depends really what you are doing but in general eating plenty of complex carbohydrates, lean protein, good fats, fruit and tonnes of vegetables does the job. This involves a lot of organisation and planning but it is worth it, trust me!

4) Don’t drink alcohol (or eat very sugary or highly refined foods) during periods when you are returning to exercise or increasing the intensity of your training. 

5) If you are feeling stressed, anxious or angry make sure you stick to what you planned on doing to avoid letting your emotions push you too far. Also try not to compare yourself to other people – set your own goals and don’t go beyond them.

6) Watch out for the early warning signs, any one, or combination of the following: feeling constantly tired, fatiguing quickly, plateauing in training achievements, constant aches and pains, repetitive injuries, difficulty sleeping and getting multiple minor or major illnesses or infections.

Please get in touch if you would like any free advice form me or my physiotherapist and osteopath colleagues either by phone or email. 

I look forward to your questions and comments. 


Lucy Macdonald
Chartered Physiotherapist

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