Is Overtraining a real thing

It’s a real thing. Some people disagree and say that over training doesn’t exist and that the real problem is under-recovery. I think it’s just semantics. It’s just two ways of saying the same thing.

I see this all the time and have fallen prey to it myself at times. People want to get bigger, faster, and stronger so they train multiple sessions a day with as much intensity as they can muster, for 6 days or more a week. On top of this they don’t have an adequate nutrition plan, they work all day, deal with the normal stresses of life and don’t sleep enough.

They are not losing weight, not gain muscle and their WOD times are getting worse and worse. Some times people will actually gain body fat, and lose muscle mass leading to even more training or discouragement and ultimately giving up on their goals.

Training

There is nothing wrong with training hard. When you’re ready to workout, give it everything you’ve got. CrossFit is performing functional movements with high intensity after all. But there is a reason that CrossFit(HQ) has seen the best results from those following a 3 day on 1 day off schedule. It is hard to workout with “High” intensity for 5 or 6 days in a row. It’s possible if you don’t have anything else to do and you can be just as intense about your recovery, but most of us don’t have that luxury.

My personal schedule includes 7 sessions a week over 4 days. Sunday Rest, 2 sessions on Monday, 1 on Tuesday, 2 on Wednesday, Thursday Rest, 1 on Friday, and 1 on Saturday. I follow a CrossFit prescription of varying time and modal domains to build a well rounded level of fitness I’m not competing in anything but life. I hit each session with as much intensity as I can. Some days just feel like I’m going through the motions and others like I could win the CrossFit games (in my dreams).

Resting

My rest days are exactly that. I rest. I’ll do a little warmup so I can demonstrate movements for my CrossFit class in the morning and I’ll do some mobility work. For the most part I try to conserve as much energy as possible and allow my body to rest and recover. There are a lot things you can do to help:

  • Sleep In
  • Eat Well (more on this below)
  • Get Plenty of Omega-3 (do this everyday)
  • Find some time to close your eyes during the day (i.e. meditation, nap)
  • Keep the TV off in the evening
  • Go to be a little bit early

I routinely (5 or 6 nights a week) get 8+ hours of sleep. Because I have to get up at 4:45am this means I have to get to bed at 8pm. Sure it cuts into my social life, but currently my goals have to do with my fitness and not how many movies I’ve seen or beers I’ve tried.

Monday, Wednesday and Friday I take a 20-30 min nap while I’m home for lunch. Notice that 2 of those days are the days I have 2 workout sessions. Sometimes I’ll take a nap on weekend days as well, but that doesn’t always happen.

If you’re going to train seriously, you have to take your rest just as seriously. Otherwise you’re body won’t recover, grow or allow you to train with full intensity.

Nutrition

Your body needs fuel. The harder you train the more fuel you’re going to need to support that training. That’s part of the reason why I suggest to people trying to lose weight that they not train as often. By training hard and often without the proper amount of food to support that training your body get’s extremely stressed out. Increased stress increase cortisol production in the body and that leads to increased body fat. Not to mention injury.

The proper amounts of protein, carbohydrate and fat keep your body running strong and builds muscle. If you don’t take your nutrition seriously you’re killing your recovery.

I’m of the opinion that the quality of the food you eat matters, just as much as eating the proper amounts and ratio of macro nutrients. Eating naturally raised protein, organic veggies and healthy fat can decrease inflammation and the bio availability of the nutrients is much higher. Sure you can eat donuts and ice cream for your carbohydrate but how much better will your body feel and function if you ate a sweet potato instead?

I’m not going to get into the argument of over training vs under recovering. I simply want to present the idea of taking your recovery just as seriously as your training. Don’t believe me? Give it a shot for a couple weeks, then let me know how much better your training is going.

Now go move better.