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‘The Dormouse’: my story as a lightweight rower with overtraining syndrome
  1. Lindsay Woodford
  1. Psychology, University of the West of England Department of Health and Social Sciences, Bristol, UK
  1. Correspondence to Lindsay Woodford, Psychology, University of the West of England Department of Health and Social Sciences, Bristol BS16 1QY, UK; lindsay.woodford{at}

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Intensive demands of ROWING

To be a successful high-performance lightweight rower, I required exceptional physical attributes such as fitness and strength, together with high levels of dedication and resilience. However, when faced with frustrating setbacks such as injury and illness, like many athletes, the qualities that made me a champion became my own worst enemy.

Vigorous specifically targeted training followed by sufficient recovery is essential to improve athletic performance. It is difficult to balance training and recovery and when you layer on the added constraint of a weight-limited sport like lightweight rowing, training becomes more complex. In my sport, lightweight rowing, women compete under 57 kg and men under 70 kg. Making weight was a real challenge for me at 5′7″, so I maximised every opportunity to burn calories. That often meant choosing an active recovery session over a rest day, in my already challenging training schedule.

Consequences of overtraining and weight loss

The extreme weight loss strategies I employed in the days leading up to the National Championships in 2000 seem ridiculous and incomprehensible now. I was not at race weight the night before the finals, so I severely restricted my food and drink intake, to the point of dehydration. I remember the blissful sensation of sucking the moisture out of my toothbrush, I savoured that moment when the cool, minty water slid down my throat. Despite turning the heating up and sleeping under …

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