Mitchum Q&A 5: How to Avoid Overtraining

Hello folks,

This lunchtime (between 2-3pm rather than the usual 1pm) we're joined by GB high jumper Tom Parsons who'll be answering your questions about overtraining - what it is, how to tell when you're training too hard and how to find the perfect balance in your training.

After studying for a Bsc in Sport and PE at UWIC, Tom Parsons has become one of Britain's best high jumpers. The highlights of his career so far include making the high jump final at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, as well as representing the UK at World Championships, Commonwealth Games, World University Games and other major championships.

We're opening the discussion now so Tom so can crack on answering your questions straight away at 2pm rather than having to deal with a rush of questions at once.



  • You can normally tell when you're over-training because your performances tail off. But what if you're trying to regain fitness, you won't have such a reliable baseline to judge against as your fitness should be increasing in steps.

    In those circumstances, how do you recognise over-training, do you use indicators such as appetite etc?

    If you recognise the warning signs at an early stage, how quickly could you recover, and should you use recovery runs for exampel to help?

  • Hi Tom,

    What are your thoughts on the use of aids to recovery such as ice, ibuprofen, compression etc. as opposed to complete rest and the healing power of time? Could it be argued that anything more than the occasional use of the methods indicates overtraining?


  • What does your training schedule involve in the lead up to 2012? Do you do any other sports to suppliment your training and how does that help with high jump?
  • Hi Tom

    What would you normally eat before a big traning session?

  • Afternoon Tom,

    not directly overtraining related, but if you are training in the evening how do you wind down afterwards to ensure you'll get a good nights sleep?


  • hi there

    just interested to know what's your personal best in the high jump and how are you training to better that!

  • Occasionally I might recognise that I am over training a bit, but I find myself reluctant to cut back - the only time I manage to do this is for a taper, and even I cross-train like mad.  I get a hard time from friends and family for "running too much, although none of them are runners, and I think that probably makes me want to run more!

    Any ideas/suggestions on how to tackle my family/friends?  And  Is cross-training (swimming/cycling/pilates) as viable as a total rest day?

  • Hi Broadswick,

    I think if you are starting to get aches and pains you should try and self massage and physio so you can use foam rollers which you can use on your back and sides of your legs. You can also use golf balls under you feet to try and get rid of tightness in your feet. That can alleviate tight shins and calfs etc.

    Another strategy to avoid injury is making sure you get enough rest between sessions and get good food inside you after training sessions. Within an hour post session it's good to have proteins and carbohydrates to help you recover quicker. Ice bath or ice packs can help after a training session and also a proper warm down and make sure you stretch.
    If you feel fatigue generally make sure you plan in more rest days to take the edge of the training and also include specific recovery days.

  • Hi Simon,

    It depends- I think if you have to constantly take pain killers you may have an underlying problem that's medical attention.

    As an elite athlete training full time I require medical treatment roughly 2 times per week in terms of massage and physio.

    I don't use compression clothing because it's not as important for my event. The type of footwear you choose is very important as all the impact you take as an athlete comes from your feet.

    It's ok to take painkillers now and again but if there is a specific area that needs attention it's best to seek professional advice.

  • Hi Archie,

    We cant really do other sports because they the risk of injury is too great. i try to do less risky sports like pool or snooker or even table tennis.

    We stretch for half an hour before sessions and after sessions every day. We do partner stretching which is called PNF where you use the resistance of each other to push your body into position so you probably wouldn't be able to do this by yourself. This will increase your flexibility.

    My schedule is very intensive over the winter months and would involve training twice a day over 5 days per week. It involves various general conditioning and strength training such as weight lifting and circuits. As you move nearer to competition season we do much more specific quality sessions involving more jumping and running based activities and also more rest.

  • Hi Natasha,

    Before a big training session I would usually have porridge with honey and some boiled eggs. As most of my big sessions are in the morning porridge is a great form of slow releasing energy whereas cereal is high in sugar and doesn't give you energy over a long time. It's important to have protein as well and I get this from the eggs.

    If you are an aerobic athlete (long dist runner) you would need more carbohydrates so you could have toast as well as you would be burning more calories. But my event involves a lot of explosive dynamic exercises in my training so I need higher protein to carb balance as I'm not constantly running in the same way that a runner would.

  • Hi Ferrocous,

    I try not to drink anything with caffeine in it after 4pm so that I will sleep better. I will usually have a big glass of milk before bed.

    Usually I am pretty tired after evening training sessions so I don't have any problem sleeping. If it was a big session I would have a big amount of food afterwards to help my body recover more quickly.

    I take ZMA tablets (zinc and magnesium) which help you to sleep and are very good for recovery.

  • Hi Runner,

    My personal best is 2m 31cm and my aim is to do better than that by staying injury free and increasing my strength, speed and overall power levels gradually over a long period of time.

    Also I need to improve on some technical aspects of my jumping and improve on my mental approach and I am working with a sports psychologist to do this.

  • Thanks Tom,

    What about when you're not training? What do you do to wind down after a session and take your mind off of big events?

  • Hi Katie,

    You should def have total rest days. Probably at least one per week as your body needs recovery to improve.

    You could implement some training that is less hard on the body but still very beneficial such as aquajogging, yoga, swimming and abdominal sessions or swiss ball sessions to take some of the loading of the body and give you other strength such as stronger stabiliser muscles which will also help improve your running.

    General circuits such as press ups, dips etc and standing squats can be fatiguing aerobically but not hurt the body too much.

  • Hi Archie,

    I like reading and watching films- normal stuff! I like to play on my Playstation with friends.

    I also write a column for the Birmingham Mail once a week and I just try to keep busy generally and not think too much about athletics while I'm not training.

  • Hi Tom,

    Are you more prone to injury or illness if you overtrain? 


  • Hi Alina,

    Yes- there are ways to avoid becoming injured or ill- I supplement my diet with vitamins and glutamime. This gives my immune system a boost so I'm less to likely to get ill.

    I also take Omega 3 fish oils which help my joints and help the immune system also.

    Getting rest and sleep is also very important and the biggest thing is getting enough sleep and eating enough of the right food.

    Making sure you eat enough fruit and veg is important for general health as they as high in anti-oxidants.

    Generally the brighter colour of the fruit or veg the more anti-oxidents they contain.

    I have protein supplements as well after every session.

  • Tom,

    how do you ensure that the supplements and vitamins that you take are free from any prohibited substances? 

  • Hi tom.

    What specific benefit do you get from anti-oxidents?

  • Sorry folks, I think that might be all we have time for today. Thanks Tom for your answers - and thanks to all of you for supplying the questions!

    Next week it's the last in the series, and we've got GB track star Jenny Meadows live on the forum to take your questions.


  • Hog-mouseHog-mouse ✭✭✭
    Wish I knew about this before. image
  • When did Tom become Helen Jenkins? Did a snake oil salesman convince him he'd jump better as a woman? Also,what happened to Jenny Meadows?

  • Pammie*Pammie* ✭✭✭

    Well spotted Simonimage

    Better AG as a woman image for the same height obviously

    a multi changing profile

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