Overtraining: A Crash Course...

Discussion in 'Health and Fitness' started by Bigmikey, Oct 4, 2010.

  1. Bigmikey

    Bigmikey Internet Pacifist.

    We’re all familiar with the term Overtraining and I’d wager the majority of resistance athletes have experienced overtraining firsthand. Constant overtraining, however, can lead to something called Overtraining Syndrome. Yes, that’s right, syndrome. First things first though, lets take a closer look at overtraining as we might encounter it on a more common level.

    Wikipedia defines overtraining as:
    The point when the volume and intensity of an individual's exercise exceeds their recovery capacity. They cease making progress, and can even begin to lose strength and fitness.

    In fact a web search found several defintions which varied little from wikipedia's. Which tells me we can define overtraining but does that mean the average gym-goer understands it?

    It is generally accepted that the two most common and readily apparent signs of overtraining are:

    1) Loss of motivation spreading well beyond exercise and
    2) continual feeling of exhaustion/lethargy.

    More often than not these two symptoms are accompanied by one of the following:

    Cold-like symptoms or a tendancy toward prolonged illness
    Injury (such as sprains, strains and tendonitis)
    Chronic muscle soreness
    Joint pain
    Decreased performance
    Appetite loss
    Insatiable thirst/excessive dehydration

    Now take a good long look at that list. How many of us have had handfuls of those symptoms and dismissed them? I can speak from personal experience and say that I’ve suffered from both 1 and 2, as well as cold-like symptoms, insomnia, insecurity, joint pain, headache . . . and probably more if I really sit and think about it.

    Under normal training loads, resistance training has small, short-term effects on immune function, but overtraining can lead to general immune system suppression, resulting in increased susceptibility to infections, and decreased ability to fight off infections. In female athletes, overtraining may also be associated with amenorrhea.

    Although the causes of overtraining are not well understood, many cases of overtraining are believed to be due to overstimulation of the sympathetic nervous system. This stimulation is a result of all the stresses in your life, including training, sleep deprivation, nutritional deficits, job stress, family stress, etc. all of which can have deleterious effects on the human body when left unchecked or unmanaged.

    Typically when we hit the gym we expect 100% from our bodies but in order to GIVE 100% it has to be AT 100%. That means rest. Mike Mentzer speculated it can take as long as two weeks to three weeks to recover from a single workout depending on intensity. Two to three weeks. Most of us cant wait one. Remember just because you’re not sore doesn’t mean you’re completely healed. Still, the universal sign of being ready to go back to the gym is when the soreness goes away. So we find ourselves back at the gym, pushing ourselves as hard as ever despite the fact we’re not at 100% yet.

    As lifters we’ve all had the “no pain, no gain” mentality beaten into our heads. When we have “off” days we tell ourselves to suck it up and push through it, never once thinking that our decreased performance, fatigue, lack of motivation and distraction are our bodies ways of telling us we’ve pushed too hard for too long. Enter the initial stages of overtraining.

    Overtraining is difficult to diagnose due to the mundane nature of most of the symptoms. Decreased performance can simply be due to a difficult day at the office or a poor nights sleep. Distraction can simply be due to, again, a poor nights sleep or a preoccupation with some other aspect of life. Insomnia, depression, insecurity are all things we can encounter from a variety of other sources in our lives that it becomes easy to dismiss them and tell ourselves to simply push through what might be the tell tale signs of overtraining. A handy way to help you determine if what you feel may be overtraining symptoms versus simply the effects of “life” is to carry a training log and notate the way you feel each morning and then again prior to training. If you train in the mornings, enter how you feel before you workout and then again before bed. A continuous trend of cold like symptoms, lack of motivation, depression, exhaustion etc, may help you diagnose overtraining early enough to correct the problem.

    If diagnosed early enough overtraining can be corrected in 5 to 10 days by reducing training intensity – often to the point of not training at all, and making sure we’re taking in enough fluids, upping our carbs a bit and getting some quality rest. If left untreated or ignored overtraining can lead to overtraining syndrome, which was mentioned earlier.

    Because I’m all about the definitions, a “Syndrome” is defined as:

    1. A group of symptoms that collectively indicate or characterize a disease, psychological disorder, or other abnormal condition.

    2. A complex of symptoms indicating the existence of an undesirable condition or quality.

    Overtraining syndrome frequently occurs in athletes who are training for competition or a specific event and train beyond the body's ability to recover. Athletes often exercise longer and harder in an attempt to improve. But without adequate rest and recovery, these training regimens can backfire, and actually decrease performance.
    Conditioning requires a balance between overload and recovery. Too much overload and/or too little recovery may result in both physical and psychology symptoms of overtraining syndrome.

    While there are many proposed ways to objectively test for overtraining, the most accurate and sensitive measurements are psychological signs and symptoms such as changes in mental state. Decreased positive feelings regarding workouts and increased negative feelings, such as depression, anger, fatigue, and irritability often appear after a few days of intensive overtraining.

    Research on overtraining syndrome shows rest is the primary treatment plan. Some new evidence indicates that low levels of exercise, also known as “active recovery, during the rest period may in fact speed recovery. Total recovery can take several weeks and includes proper nutrition and stress reduction.

    One easy way to help avoid overtraining is to schedule “light weeks” into your workout schedule. Light training weeks should have both a decrease in workload as well as a decrease in intensity. They are designed to allow for active recovery and bridge the gap between the rest your body needs and your desire to avoid lengthy periods of inactivity. Often I recommend simply finding a few “core” exercises, lightening weight and working from a desire to stimulate muscles not exhaust them. The object is to simply get a “pump” not break down muscle tissue to the same extent as you would during a heavy or normal training week.

    For example, a light chest workout might consist of 3 or 4 sets of pushups to failure and 2 or 3 sets of cable crosses for reps. Use light weeks as an opportunity to focus on form and shaping, and to develop a more sharply honed mind-muscle connection. I usually recommend using single arm/single leg movements to allow for the use of the “touch principle” to further enhancing that mind-muscle connection.

    Overtraining is the result of either too much training or too little recovery or a combination of both. Moreover it is also an issue which affects each of us individually. Your normal training load and methods may be viewed as a veritable highway to overtraining by others and yet completely manageable by you. The training load you can handle is determined by your genetics, your level of fitness, and the sum total of stresses in your life. Effective training relies on managing your body's ability to recover and adapt. Overtraining simply represents poor management. You can train exceptionally hard and not overtrain as long as you allow time between hard workouts to let your body recover.

    But in the end the best way to prevent overtraining is to know your body and listen to what it tells you. Pay attention to its signals, maintain that training log with notes about how you feel and learn to manage the external stressors in your life. Beyond that, allow yourself the time you need to rest and to recover and with any luck overtraining will just be something you read about in this article, not something you have to recover from.
  2. Moi

    Moi Warriors live forever x

    I'll watch out for that:rolleyes:
  3. Nutjob

    Nutjob Jimmy Tarbuck

    Wow what a spazzy comment, Mikey has took his time to present a pretty good article there dude, maybe butt out if your not interested as a lot of us are.
  4. Hatamoto

    Hatamoto Beardy Man Kenobi Supporter

    Gotta be worth a sticky or making an article out of. Good show, Mikey!
  5. Bigmikey

    Bigmikey Internet Pacifist.

    Thanks fellas. Thats an article that I have/had on my blog. After the conversation I read regarding Bruce Lee wanting to over train I figured I needed to post it here.

    Perhaps I'll filter in a few others as well as time goes by. Just glad it could be of some value to y'all.
  6. Nutjob

    Nutjob Jimmy Tarbuck

    it is useful, i now know i'm not overtraining so can go twice a day for a bit lol!! :D
  7. Moi

    Moi Warriors live forever x

    Oh I'm interested but at the moment a shoulder injury is keeping me from lifting. Even at my best I'm not exactly running to the gym. It was a comment about my own, quite famous laziness not the post.
    Don't worry though Mike has a sense of humour :)
  8. Bigmikey

    Bigmikey Internet Pacifist.

    *wipes away the flowing tears* I'm crushed beyond belief. And here I thought you loved me... oh the humanity!

    :D No worries what so ever brother. :D
  9. Nutjob

    Nutjob Jimmy Tarbuck

    cool apologies then, i thought you were just being a spaz! :cool:
  10. seiken steve

    seiken steve golden member

    Great post Mikey, should be compulsory reading to all who train regularly.
  11. Moi

    Moi Warriors live forever x

    Not this time
  12. Junji Bump

    Junji Bump Valued Member

    These sound very similar to the symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Symdrome. I wonder if CFS is maybe the body not being able to regenerate fast enough because of nutrient deficiency, gentetics, etc. rather than psycosomatic as is normally assumed.
  13. Bigmikey

    Bigmikey Internet Pacifist.

    BRILLIANT! Thats in fact one reason why OT is so difficult to diagnose, the symptom are actually very common and can point to other ailments. In fact, severe OT and CFS are ridiculously similar in terms of initial symptoms.
  14. Microlamia

    Microlamia Banned Banned

    What do you think is a sign that you are 100%? I usually wait until I have literally no soreness, not just faint traces. I figure if I am still a small bit sore I have some microtrauma that didn't finish healing yet.
  15. Bigmikey

    Bigmikey Internet Pacifist.

    You still may not be fully recovered. Pain is your bodies way of saying "HEY! MORON! Stop that!" After a little while it figures you're smart enough not to need the constant reminder but that doesnt mean you've fully recovered.

    After a training session where I end up REALLY sore I'll wait at least a day or two beyond the not sore point before I train that way again. So lets say you do 300 round house kicks and experience some really pronounced quad soreness. After two days its largely gone, and after four its completely gone. That doesnt mean you've completely replenished your energy supplies and while that wont hinder the ability to use that leg again to do more kicks it might hinder your overall energy level and allow fatigue to set in earlier than it would normally.

    Going that extra day or two beyond non soreness typically ensures you're as close to 100% as you need to be.

    I hope that made sense?

    Now that doesnt mean you cant do some light training prior to that. Stretching and some forms or what have you, go a long way toward muscular recovery and help minimize stiffness. But avoid intense exercise until you can be sure you're body can respond to the demand you place upon it.
  16. Microlamia

    Microlamia Banned Banned

    Thanks Mikey! :)
  17. _sam_

    _sam_ Valued Member

    Excellent post! tons of useful info, thanks.

    I know i'm not overtraining as i make sure i get enough rest, try to eat right and train correctly as much as possible. i also feel i know my limits very well both due to my time in the army, and through boxing, so i know when to back off etc. but as i'm getting into weight training more seriously this info was definately useful.

    i train with weights 4 times per week and combine 2 of these days with cardio work outs and have one low intensity cardio workout (cycling, swimming or steady jog) on one of my rest days, and have one day of complete rest. i have just taken 3 full days off over the weekend though due to feeling ****** with a cold, and today's and yesterday's workouts went very well. i felt great and had to hold myself back at the end so's not to train to failure. finished today's (bench day) with 5x5 weighted parallel bar dips (with 20kg plate) get in! haha
  18. geezer

    geezer Valued Member

    re overtraining

    Excellent article! Pardon me if I'm a bit late in getting onto this thread, but its a topic that concerns me. Not that I'm any kind of fanatic about training. To the contrary, I've been a bit lazy of late. I came down with a nasty fever or flu about a month back and am just trying to get going again. It's discourageing too, since I've lost so much ground.

    Anyway, one thing I'm noticing since I got back to training is that, as an old guy (55), it takes me a really long time to recover after a hard workout. I seem to atrophy quicker and my net gains over time are less and less. And in addition to getting stuck on an endless plateau, I find that I'm suffering from increasing side effects such as joint pains and so on. Sometimes it seems that the destructive stresses of working out cancel out my bodies ability to make re-constructive gains.

    So, is overtraining more of a problem for older individuals like me who stubbornly refuse to quit and admit that they are over the hill? Your signiture indicates that you might have some thoughts on this subject.
  19. forero

    forero Valued Member

    That was the greatest apology I've heard in a long time. Thank you:)

    I have a question, what is considered "light" training? By most MAPpers standards my most balls-to-the-wall effort is yer warm-up. If one is below a certain level of strength or endurance, would it better to simply not train at first, rather than training super-ridiculously lightly?
  20. Bigmikey

    Bigmikey Internet Pacifist.

    What needs to be understood in regard to overtraining is that there is no singular level by which to measure it. Its always individual. For some, training daily at near max weight is doable because they have the natural recovery ability to pull it off. Others would be crippled by an injury three weeks in.

    Its about listening to your body and staying aware of the bodies tells that you're pushing too hard. The quickest way to fall INTO an overtraining environment is to try to measure up to someone elses level of training.

    Geezer, I'd need to know what your diet, rest and hydration habits are like before I can answer your questions. On the surface, at your age, it sounds like you might even be suffering from low test, a common affliction for men in OUR age ranges. As we age our natural ability to produce testosterone begins to wane. The result is a decrease in lean mass, slower recovery ability and an over all lessened ability to heal in general.

    It's a simple test, Geezer, and once you have an idea of where your blood serum test levels are you can either fix it if thats the problem or move on to the next thing.

    Forero, a light day is any day wherein you plan on a reduced work load so that your body can engage in whats called active recovery. By training "ridiculously lightly" as you put it you still burn calories, lessen the effects of muscular stiffness, help your body "flush" toxins released during previous exercise endeavors due to the metabolic stimulus and get the feeling of having done a little sum' in sum' in.

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