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"I went to Amanda for help with my batting, which was stuck in a rut. Amanda has really helped me in becoming aware of unhelpful thought processes while batting and working on a positive ‘mental routine’. She is enthusiastic and approachable, and her tips and methods have been very effective. I would definitely recommend Amanda."

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Overtraining and the Importance of Sleep to Athlete Performance and Wellbeing

The sporting world has become a hyper competitive environment with athletes pushing themselves further and further to achieve national and international status, secure professional contracts, break records, and achieve personal best performances. In the lead up to London 2012, athletes are bidding for those elusive spots to represent their country and sport on the foremost world stage. The consequence of this high performance atmosphere is the prospect of athletes developing Overtraining Syndrome also known as Unexplained Underperformance Syndrome (UUPS). The psychological and physiological consequences of which can be extremely detrimental to not only an athlete’s performance but more importantly their wellbeing and health.

 Overtraining typically leads to a prolonged unexplained drop in sport performance. This is different from short dips in performance and training which may be explained by a slump or having a cold and is easily solved by 1 or 2 weeks of easy training (Dr. Richard Budgett, 1998 & 2000). It is characterized by a number of psychological (and physiological) indicators, which can be found in the table below. It can be measured using the Profile of Mood States (POMS) psychological inventory (Lane & Terry, 2000; Terry & Lane, 2002) which is the preferred method of assessment in Overtraining by the BOA. Interestingly, when compared to the psychological indicators of depression (see table below), the similarities of the symptoms are undeniable and the same (Owens, PhD Doctoral Research). This suggests that the problem may not be solely related to the amount or intensity of training, but also emotional or life issues. Causes may include: life stressors such as relationships (family, friends, coach), work, or school; lack of positive reinforcement, feelings of helplessness, monotony of training, stringent rules, or competitive stress (Johnson & Thiese, 1992).

Psychological Indicators of Overtraining

Psychological Indicators of


  • Lack of energy and drowsiness
  • Decreased enthusiasm, motivation, and apathy
  • Loss of concentration
  • Emotional outbursts/imbalance
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Loss of self-confidence
  • Lack of appetite
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Anxiety and Confusion
  • Depressed mood
  • Reduced ability to make decisions
  • Unexplained drop in performance
  • Depressed mood
  • Loss of pleasure or interest in usual activities
  • Disturbance of appetite
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Psychomotor retardation or agitation
  • Loss of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • Difficulties in thinking
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
  • Sleep is a significant factor in athletes performing at their best, which is often overlooked. However, there are enormous benefits to getting the proper amount of sleep, including: muscle and physiological recovery, memory and insight formation, visual discrimination, motor skills, mental sharpness, and mood enhancement. Walker et al. (2002) showed that motor skills performance was significantly improved when participants slept in between practicing the skill (10pm) and performing the skill (10am) then participants who practiced the skill (10am) and performing the skill (10pm) with no sleep in between. What does this mean for athletes? Sleep is essential for athletic (motor) performance in particular for: skill learning and acquisition, focus and concentration, memory, creativity, physical renewal, and mood.

    Periodization training is often employed to enhance athletic performance and reduce the possibility for overtraining. It allows athletes to taper and reach their optimum state, physically. It refers to changes and variations in the training program over a distinct period of time, characterised by gradually decreasing volume while gradually increasing intensity. Periodization has traditionally been used in endurance sport, but more recently has been used in Cricket (Owens, 2003) and skiing (Owens, 2010). It allows for proper rest and recovery whilst allowing the athlete to train to their performance goals.

    Athletes are always looking for that elusive edge. Here’s a key: take care of your body and mind by monitoring psychological indicators, getting enough sleep, and allowing for rest and recovery.


    Bee die, C.J., Terry, P.C., & Lane, A.M. (2000). The profile of mood states and athletic performance: Two meta-analyses. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 12, 49-68.

    Budgett, R. (1998, 2000) Overtraining Overtraining: Here's how to deal with a new problem - the 'unexplained underperformance syndrome.'

    Johnson, M.B., & Thiese, S.M. (1992).A review of overtraining syndrome: Recognizing the signs and symptoms. Journal of Athletic Training, 27, 352-354.

    Lane, A.M., & Terry, P.C. (2000). The nature of mood: Development of a

    conceptual model with a focus on depression. Journal of Applied Sport

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