Is too much sport bad for our children? Are they overtraining?
Last week I presented a lecture at Surbiton Hockey Club on how to train effectively as a young athlete. Often if your child is sporty and loves sport then they end up doing A LOT of it. They maybe on the hockey team at school, do hockey at club level and may even get selected for regional hockey. If they are super good then they will be selected for England Hockey. As all these organisations are separate in their approach this means that a young athlete can be literally playing 1-3 hours of hockey a day.
Now, one may think that this will make them a better hockey player but in fact, it may ultimately do the reverse.
What is important to know about training?
When you perform any training that isn’t just for fun, there is always a training effect that is stimulated. This means that each session you do as an athlete should produce a short term and long term training effect. Short term training can produce effects such as increased heart rate or shortness of breath or muscle fatigue. This will normally improve once you have stopped the training session. However, the long term fitness effects for all the above occurs when you perform repeated sessions and gradually you get faster, less tired, and stronger.
One of the main aspects of training and for your body to reap the effects of a good session is that you recover well. Recovery allows your body to build on the areas that you have fatigued in the session and ultimately it’s the time that your body has to get stronger. The problem arises when you have lots of training sessions day in and day out; this means that you do not completely recover and as a result, your body and your mind start to burn out. This is called overtraining or overreaching.
What is over training?
Imagine you have a hockey session on a Monday and its a hard match play session that lasts 1.5 hours. You feel exhausted after. The next day you wake up tired and stiff but you have a netball match at school. Repeated hard sessions with inadequate recovery will have the effect of actually making you perform worse. This can also make you prone to illness, injury and ultimately may lead to burn out and disinterest in the sport.
Perceived Rate of Exertion (PRE)
One way to measure how hard you are training is by measuring your Perceived Rate of Exertion (PRE). This is a scale of 0-10 and indicates how hard you felt you worked in the session. Let’s take the ‘BIG DOG’ for example you all probably feel that’s a 10/10 in PRE. This then gives you an idea of how long you should recover for and what kind of session you should be doing the next day. So, after the big dog perhaps you should have a day off or do a session that is a drills session that could be let’s say, 3/10 in PRE. Working out what you are doing in one week can start to give you information on how much your body can cope with.
Another golden rule is that you shouldn’t be doing more hours of a sport than your age. This means if you are 10 years old you should be doing less than 10 hours of sport.
Signs of over training
• Not excited about their sport/training.
• Becoming stressed easily about their performance land playing sports.
• They seem to always be sore or have lingering injuries/pains.
• Their sleep pattern has changed or become irregular.
• Even if they do sleep, they don’t feel rested.
• Craving more sugar and carbs then they used to.
• Getting sick a lot or sickness lingers.
• They’ve hit a performance plateau or performance has started to decline.
How can I recover after exercise?
- Sleep- An average young athlete should be sleeping 10 hours per night. A well rested sleep is vital for a good recovery. Noting how many hours you have slept and how rested you feel can help you monitor how tired you are getting.
- Active recovery- can include sports massage, gentle exercise like swimming or stretching.
- Nutrition- making sure you eat something within half an hour of training, not necessarily a big meal but a bar or protein snack. Also making sure you have a drink after a session.
- Cold showers- 10sec hot and cold even just on your legs if they are tired can help the next day.
Ways to monitor your training
- Perceived rate of exertion- measure this after each session and let this dictate which sessions are the most important.
- Heart rate- measure your heart rate every morning before you get out of bed and get an average. If this starts to creep up it could be a sign that you are tired of getting ill.
- Never train is you are ill or unwell.
- Sleep- make sure you sleep a minimum of 10 hours.
- Allow for time off training if you are taking exams or stressed.
Finally, watch out for aches and pains
If you find you are getting aches and pains during training which tends to go away after this could be a sign of over training. It’s important to start listening to your body. If sport is a big part of your life and you want to keep playing, even want to compete for your country then start to look at training effectively!
Sometimes we need some help so get in touch sooner than later!