Overtraining occurs when an athlete's fitness regime does not allow adequate time for her body to recover from each rigorous workout. Swimmers can be susceptible to overtraining because the sport requires many hours of intense training over a long competitive season. Coaches and swimmers should monitor workouts to ensure the body has enough time to recover before each new challenge.
Swimmers with a competitive nature are especially susceptible to overtraining, as they push themselves to keep up with teammates or competitors. An overly aggressive coach, parent or mentor can also contribute to an athlete's desire to work beyond her body's capacity. Poor nutrition and lack of sleep can also contribute to the body's inability to cope with a stressful workout schedule. Because of the adrenaline rush they get while competing, some swimmers fail to realize their muscles are not ready for a certain intensity or speed. This makes it difficult for them to be aware of their level of fatigue and need to rest.
If you feel like you are working harder than ever and not achieving your normal level of performance, you may be experiencing the effects of overtraining. Other symptoms may include fatigue, weakness, a rapid pulse, depression, irritability and an inability to concentrate. Swimmers who have overtrained might also experience a decrease in appetite and sex drive, as well as disrupted sleep patterns.
You can prevent the negative effects of overtraining without having to give up your fitness goals. You can still increase the intensity of your workout -- just do so slowly rather than suddenly. Give your body time to adjust to the new rigors of your swim. Don't push yourself to compete with other swimmers unless you are participating in a competitive event or race. Consult your doctor if you have any chronic health issues to make sure your body can cope with the challenge.
If you are experiencing one or more of the symptoms of overtraining, seek medical attention. After two weeks of continued pain or discomfort in any area of your body, you should consult a doctor. Over time, pushing your body beyond its limits can have severe consequences for your bones and connective tissue. You must stop training to allow your body to fully heal before preparing for any more competitions.
Joelle Dedalus began writing professionally for websites such as PugetSoundMagazine.com in 2009. She received her B.A. in English education at Iowa State University and is currently a M.F.A. candidate in creative nonfiction writing at Emerson College in Boston, where she is developing a manuscript on literary travel. Her areas of expertise include travel and literature, the outdoors and the arts.