Overreaching

Last Updated: May 9, 2018

Definition - What does Overreaching mean?

Overreaching is a temporary condition caused by improper athletic training or exercise routines. During high-performance or endurance training, an athlete may purposefully increase his or her training load to improve his or her performance. This training regimen often includes high intensity workouts intended to challenge the body's limits.

However, this method of training must be carefully managed in order to avoid causing overreaching. If the body is repeatedly overtaxed without appropriate rest, systematic breakdowns may occur. Overreaching is characterized by mental and physical fatigue and immune system weakness.

Other signs that a person is experiencing overreaching include an increased resting heart rate and high arterial blood pressure. Nervousness and heart palpitations are also indicators of overreaching. Additionally, the person may sweat excessively during their workout. When signs of overreaching develop, an athlete must provide his or her body time to rest and recover. Depending on the level of stress the body has experienced, recovery time for overreaching may take weeks.

While most often associated with athletic training, individuals who perform physically intense jobs can also experience overreaching. This can occur as a new employee begins a physically demanding job, particularly is the new employee is not physically fit enough for the position. An example of this could be a worker starting on a drilling rig and not accustomed to the constant lifting and carrying involved with the position. Individuals and supervisors should be aware of the potential for overreaching and its symptoms. The best way to avoid the effects of overreaching is to set reasonable performance goals, provide ample training and ramp up time, and incorporate regular rest and recovery breaks into any task requiring intense physical activity.

WorkplaceTesting explains Overreaching

Most competitive athletes carefully monitor their daily workouts to avoid the risks of overreaching. If a person continues to engage in excessive exercise despite signs of overreaching, he or she can expect to suffer degradations in performance along with the other symptoms of overreaching.

If these symptoms of overreaching are ignored, overtraining syndrome (OTS) may develop.

OTS is a chronic condition arising from overreaching during training. A person suffering from OTS will experience a loss of performance and other health complications. At later stages of overreaching and OTS, a person's heart rate and blood pressure may drop. He or she may also feel depressed or tired. OTS can compromise a person's immune system and trigger hypoglycemia as well.

Overreaching can be managed in a way that improve performance by incorporating adequate rest and recovery periods into the training sequence. This method of incorporating rest periods into the training cycle is called training periodization. In addition, athletes should ensure that they get adequate rest and proper nutrition during training. Avoiding excess emotional stress and illness can also help a person avoid overreaching.

In brief, anyone working to increase their physical performance (in sport or work) must do so in controlled manner that avoids attempting to achieve too much, too soon. Overreaching can also easily occur when exercise routines are recommended to individuals without considering their current health state and conditioning level. For example, telling a person who does not regularly exercise to run 5 miles every morning in a set amount of time without making sure they build their body's endurance up to a point to handle the new levels of activity safely. Individuals taking on new jobs that require high levels of physical activity compared to their current levels of training and activity can likewise be pushed too far too fast and should be carefully monitored for signs of overreaching.

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