Overtraining Syndrome: A Bit of Info

Thanks for the well wishes. It really is great to be able to train again two full years in a row after never thinking I would be able to again. The lows during those four years were super hard, and most people didn’t understand why I had such issues with it, you know because most people just would rather sit on the couch.
For all the lows and mini bouts of depression I found myself in during that time I also had a lot of positives such as getting my first dog, who is my absolute best friend. I got into coach while subbing and looking for a teaching job. I got married. So lots of good stuff when you get to pull up to a birds eye view now, but at the time…ugh! To answer your questions.

a) Were any of the doctors you saw helpful? What type of specialist or Eastern vs Western medicine did you find were the most helpful?
- None of the doctors were able to “cure” me. Taking different supplements like zinc + magnesium together to help with T levels did not do much. Blood work would show really low T within the first year.
A few months after first realizing I went over the edge I went for a physical and was told I was fine, but T levels were a bit under the normal range (normal would be like 350-800 whatever they called it). Went back in six months later for more blood work and that level had dropped to double digits, think it was like 93. Thats when I was prescribed testosterone shots. Obviously I could not compete, nor would I have during it since it would have been cheating but the doc wanted to see if that would kick start my body. Was on that for several months, and while it brought levels up, and had me muscle up a bit, it did not fix the overtraining aspect.
I also took an SSRI, which is a form of an anti depressant for a period of time because there was research that those had worked to treat people with overtraining syndrome to reset the switch in a person brain. I got off that after a few months because I did not like the numb feeling it gave me and I was not noticing anything.
I ended up having a massive PE a few years into this too which was out of nowhere. Basically lots of blood clots in the lungs, and one so large it cut off the lower lobe of one and killed it. Funny thing about that was the doc said because of my years of endurance sports my lungs overcompensated so I never knew I had the pain/issue, where a regular out of shape person would have felt severe pain months before I did. The hits kept coming.
The weird thing was within a few months of being on a blood thinner I started coming back. Not saying it was the medicine, could have just been the timing of enough had gone back and my body was ready. Not really sure.
Seeing an endocrinologist after my PE found nothing wrong with me…

b) Did anyone ever diagnosis this as REDS (Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport)?
Nope, I never had heard of that, or been told that was something to look into/might have.

c) Do you believe the root cause was a combination of stress AND calorie deficit and/or reduced amount of carbs?
- I do. I think had I not tried to do a super low carb/low amount of food during this it would not have happened. Should have just been throwing lots of food down my throat. The stress of the jobs really added to it. That was something that was always on my mind outside of training. I think had I not had that level of stress in work I could have kept going with what I was doing and more sleep would have helped, but in the long run it was still going to hurt me.

d) While you were training hard and reducing your calories, were you able to actually drop weight or did that plateau as well?
- My weight plateaued big time. I weight about the same now as I did then, but with a bit of a shift. Touch more weight in my legs now from just riding, and touch less muscle on my shoulders/chest because of no swimming. And this is with me eating all the time. In fact I have a good amount of ice cream a week, usually about 4-5 times a week. But back when I was doing this at the end of 2012/beginning of 2013 I found once I was at like 166-167 nothing else was coming off, so I felt like I needed to restrict more.

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Thanks for sharing @dennenj. How do you tell the difference between the times that you are feeling tired and should rest, and the times that you are safe to push through and get the training done?

I recently had a similar experience, which thankfully only lasted for a few months… I am anxious about overdoing it again but find it really difficult to miss training - especially after being sick and unable to train for so long! It is a vicious cycle that creates even more stress…

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Thanks again @dennenj. Really helpful insight. You have overcome a lot and that certainly speaks to a positive mindset! Congrats on a getting married and on getting your dog-pal.

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Glad to hear you came out of it within a few months! It’s really scary because you do not really know when you’re going to feel good again. When your identity (like mine was big time) gets so wrapped up with this type of training it’s brutal to have to stop.

The number one standout to me at least is that my heart feels tired. I don’t know if that makes sense, but when really fatigued I notice a different feeling there when working out. A few weeks ago I felt like I had been pushing too hard and then a was just terrible on a long ride where I got that feeling. Took a few easy days, and made sure to stay on top of nutrition.

Over the past two seasons I’ve spent a good amount of time working with a great coach. I find that if I’m going into a workout fatigued/tired I try the workout. There’s plenty of times where I get through the workout just fine and I’m good to go. Coach knows that’s the case and knew it would be fine. If I’m feeling fatigue for several days in a row I switch to easier riding. That might be 65% of ftp or even really easy recovery rides like 40-45% of ftp.

Also I’m at the point where when I’m really struggling to hit numbers/intervals and I feel like poop I pull the plug. I’ve gotten a lot better about not feeling guilty about this. Maybe I’m hindering myself a few percent by not digging super deep to get it but I’ll side with not wanting to dig a hole and jack myself up again.

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Thanks for that. Knowing the difference between just tired and tired and should not do any training is so difficult! I have read that some people use resting HR as an indicator of where their body is at, and I am thinking about doing that.

I agree with your approach, it is much better to be a bit cautious here and there than risk getting back into weeks or months or years of not being able to train!! Stuff that!! Interestingly, I had also changed my diet when I blew up - I was trying to move to plant based (and probably not eating enough). I have canned that and started eating a lot more carbs a lot more often!!

Carbs = :+1:t3:

Some related info in here as to the relationship between mental and physical stress. It takes some digging but the whole article is a good read FWIW.

Periodization Theory: Confronting an Inconvenient Truth


Great read. I was curious as to how long it takes until your sleep returns. I’m still having some difficulties while recovering. Thanks!

I never had any problems going to sleep. I would wake up several times throughout the night but I would always just try to sleep as much as I possibly could.

Thanks for the awesome post! Are they any robust physiological markers of overtraining? anyone comment from personal experience? thanks

I was tired a lot going into workouts. Felt like I had lost a step in my runs or some watts on my threshold/VO2 bike workouts, but the first workouts I noticed a drop off was my swims. I was about 5-7 seconds slower per 100.

Maddie, I use the motiv ring (similar idea to the whoop and other apps) to track resting heart rate and sleep. The data is interesting, and I use it to determine how rested I am and when I need to dial back.

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Wish I’d checked out this thread before! I’m on the up (:raised_hands:) after a year’s steep decline and diagnosis of ME/CFS - which has quite a crossover with OTS. So familiar, hearing your experiences. Sorry you went through it for so long. I’d initially blamed my declining fitness on the new job and travel, but saw it was more as the other symptoms crept in, like brain fog, sleeping 12 hours, lots of balance and ‘bonking’.

Feels like the past few weeks, I really turned a corner… Been tough having pretty much no guidance except “don’t push through!” - the total opposite mindset! Just grateful I can work again now and reintroduce a bit of sport.

Had a slump this week and had to stop the sport, and accept the long sleeps again for a bit. I’m optimistic tho. I’ve even been drawing up a list of MTB races and off road triathlons for after lockdown! :upside_down_face: Sometimes, hitting the start line is the win.

Any suggestions on the metrics / data that best help manage your energy with these types of conditions? I’m trying to spot fatigue trends against TSS (weekly totals) Oh, and great TR blogpost on the topic. Thank you :pray:

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