Recreational Athlete Syndrome: What the heck is it?
08/29/11 12:14 Filed in: recreational athlete | Overtraining | stress | sedentary | movement | personal training | pain
This article talks a little about what Recreational Athlete Syndrome is, how to prevent it, and how to get out of this ditch once you’re in it.
At Profound Strength we treat a lot of individuals that I call recreational athletes (those are the weekend warriors, roller derby girls, full time doctor-part time professional cyclist types). Personally I love working with these people because it is such a challenge to balance home life, work life, and their torture of choice. So I came up with this concept of Recreational Athlete Syndrome. Some professionals refer to it as overtraining syndrome, but this situation (in my opinion) goes a little beyond. Basically it consists of a few basic components: 40+ hour/week job, a family, and a strong desire to maintain their sport and their fitness. Unfortunately by the time I see them, they are already banged up and have been for some time. My job is to get them back out there ASAP. So, this article is going to talk a little about what Recreational Athlete Syndrome is, how to prevent it, and how to get out of this ditch once you’re in it.
So what is Recreational Athlete Syndrome?
Don’t worry, it’s not a clinical diagnosis, it’s just a term that I use to describe a combination of elements that lead to a (mostly) predictable end. It has a few common elements.
So what are the elements involved?
Stress: Stress in the job, pressure from family, and a desire or sense of duty to compete in athletic events at higher than average levels.
Lack of time: The person with RAS feels that they rarely have enough time to do everything, this contributes to their stress level
Mostly Sedentary Job: Like most professionals, these individuals sit or are in one position for most of their workday.
They don’t move properly: Something is a little wonky (yes, that’s a word) with the way they move (and don’t move)
They train HARD whenever they can: I think this is pretty self explanatory.
What are the symptoms?
Pain: These people have pain almost constantly but rarely do anything about it.
Fatigue/Anxiety: People with RAS may have trouble sleeping but feel tired and rarely take a day off from everything.
So what do I do about it?
I have come up with an effective strategy for preventing and treating Recreational Athlete Syndrome. It works for most people, but is a tough sell for those people that are stuck on their routine. The basic element is achieving balance... in everything.
I begin by modifying their workout structure. By taking the first 15 minutes of any workout and focus exclusively on postural deviations, movement dysfunctions (like this one), and motor training. I then spend the next 30 minutes on their normal workout. It is brief but intense. The remainder of the hour is spent on flexibility to help correct movement dysfunctions. Remember: these people spend all day in one position, they need to learn to move first... once they can move properly, only then can they increase their workout duration. After this I gradually increase the workout duration until they reach a maximum of 60 minutes and they are doing their corrective exercises at home.
This structure is critical because once the body is moving properly, the amount of stress is drastically reduced and will allow the person to resume their normal activity without pain. This will allow their exercise to become a stress reliever instead of a stress inducer. This part is HUGE.
The second and equally important component is improving the athlete’s diet. I encourage reducing the amount of fried and processed foods, increasing the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and water, and reducing the number of sweets that they consume. The way I describe it is simple. We all ask a lot of our bodies, the least we can do is pay it with the nutrients that it can utilize instead of the ones that it can’t fully utilize. (Imagine if you got paid in Rubles instead of dollars.)
Finally, the third (and again equally important) element is giving yourself a mental and physical break, regularly. If it’s an hour a day, a day per week, a couple days a month, or a week or two every year (everyone is different) it is critical that you take regular, planned periods of mental and physical rest. Sometimes this can be the difference between getting hurt or staying healthy.
All of this (not by accident) fits perfectly into the working philosophy of Profound Strength. “Address injury first, train functionally, progress logically, and focus on longevity.”
On another note: I KNOW that this article does not cover all that there is to be said on the topic. This merely touches on the subject. There’s still the details like which movement dysfunctions are typical, muscular deviations, and so on. I’d love to get your comments so I can write on a series of elements that are involved. If you ask your questions (in the section below), there’s a good chance (I’d say 100% chance) I’ll answer. I’m looking forward to it!