Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Overtraining and the Dancer

What is overtraining?

Overtraining is a condition where active individuals may complain of: reduced physical performance for no apparent medical reason, suffer constant fatigue and show emotional and behavioural changes.
The term overtraining can be used interchangeably with the term burnout.
Overtraining can occur when the pressure of training becomes too high and the body is not allowed to recover. Mirco-damage to the bodies muscles, created through training, requires sufficient time to repair in order to prevent further damage. When this happens and the body is allowed to recover, adaption occurs. Positive adaptations means an increase in performance through increase power, strength and endurance.
There are two types of burnout, acute and chronic.
  • Acute burnout may last for less than one month, for example, it may begin at the beginning of a new season for the dancer. This acute burnout may result in muscle damage causing pain and stiffness, but can quickly disappear.
  • Chronic burnout may accumulate over a period of weeks or months. Possible signs and symptoms may include menstrual irregularities and a lowered immune system causing more frequent illness, in addition to other signs and symptoms.

Contributing/risk factors

There are many factors which can contribute to burnout, such as:
·         Difficulties within personal and family relationships
·         School and work difficulties
·         Financial difficulties
·         Highly motivated individuals – highly motivated induvial will often push themselves further to achieve their ultimate goal. This can be positive, however when the individual is pushing and overexerting themselves, this may lead to injury and illness.
·         Individuals with lower fitness levels – not everyone holds the same levels of fitness, and within a dance class it may sometimes be difficult for those with lower levels of fitness to keep up with the rest of the class working at a high pace or during a longer class. These individuals should be aware of their limits and allow themselves time to recover, which in turn will develop their fitness levels instead of experiencing overtraining symptoms.
·         An increase in physical activity such as when preparing for a performance - when there is sufficient time for the body to adapt, the body will cope with an increase in rehearsal time or demanding choreography. However when this period of time is not allowed, the body will struggle.
·         Young professionals within the first year with a company - these dancers may be less willing to, or unable to say no when asked to increase their periods of rehearsal. In addition, there will be increased roles to learn, therefore more studio time in class.
·         Dancers are at great risk from overtraining due to the fact that they are conditioned to cope with a heavy workload without complaining. Dancers have a high level of self-discipline, in addition to the awareness that another dancer could easily take their role if they are not up to standard.

What are the signs and symptoms?

·         A decrease in physical performance – both a loss of stamina and technique
·         Constant fatigue
·         Negative moods
·         Frequent injuries
·         Disturbed sleep patterns through possible stressful dreams and night sweats
·         Unrested body and an unfocused mind
·         A decrease in sense of humour
·         A change in mood, such as dramatic outbursts
·         A loss of appetite
·         Elevated blood pressure and heart rate
·         Excessive sweating
·         Overuse injuries
·         The inability to recover fully after intensive dancing

How can you deal with burnout?

There are numerous ways to manage burnout/overtraining such as:
·         Counselling
·         Sleep
·         Massage – to help the body and brain to relax
·         Supportive environments – through dance teachers, family and friends
·         Rest periods away from physical activity.

Can it be prevented and treated?

Correct programming through planning periods of rest and exercise are crucial to prevent overtraining. Recovery periods may be scheduled between classes or on particular days for the individual’s personal schedule. For the dance school/company, it is also important to include rest days whilst on tour. Additionally, choreographers should be careful of making best use of their time with dancers in order to prevent overexertion.
Additional ways to prevent overtraining are;
·         Including supplementary training within an exercise programme which may act as a stress release – for each individual this will be different
·         Ensure good hydration and nutrition to provide adequate fuelling for exercising
·         Ensure ‘down time’ within the programme to build a period of relaxation.
·         Ignore the notion of ‘no pain, no gain’. Working through fatigue, illness or injury has no positive impact on performance but can cause further damage.
·         Teachers should be aware of the signs and symptoms of overtraining and, if a dancer suffers from overtraining they should be careful to look after the mental status of their dancer, providing support, advice and guidelines.

If you are a dancer based in the North East of the UK and are experiencing symptoms of overtraining, or are looking to prevent it, I am happy to assist by creating a home supplementary programme for you, or by providing massage therapy. Contact me via email at .
-          E

References :

  • Rist, R. and Koutedakis, Y. (2006). Dealing with Burnout. Available: Last accessed 4th March 2016.
  • Koutedakis, Y., 2000. Burnout in dance. the physiological Viewpoint Journal of dance medicine & science, 4, pp.122-127.
  • Quested, E. and Duda, J.L., 2011. Antecedents of burnout among elite dancers: A longitudinal test of basic needs theory. Psychology of sport and exercise, 12(2), pp.159-167.


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