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We all have these thoughts after a bad day in the gym where you just were not able to muster a weight you,ve done many times before. You find yourself just going through motions and not able to generate any intensity. Maybe a muscle group felt like it was worn out or you just were completely unmotivated for that day’s training. SO many times this has happened and automatically answer in my head was,“I’m overtrained”. As we will come to find out this is generally not the case. Instead we either did not eat, sleep or rest enough. Or just have taken on to much stress in the last couple days.
First let’s define what overtraining actually is;
“A physiological state caused by an excess accumulation of physiological, psychological, emotional, environmental, and chemical stress that leads to a sustained decrease in physical and mental performance, and that requires a relatively long recovery period.”
What makes the state of overtraining is it is a long term accumulation of many stressors. Because of this long term accumulation it will require a long recovery, meaning months of deloading and taking it easy. As opposed to what most of us experience, acute fatigue. Acute fatigue being defined as a short duration of fatigue usually fixed 24-48 hours of quality sleep and nutrition. Examples of acute fatigue would be, I only got 5 hours of sleep last night and feel a sense of overall general fatigue with the inability to focus caused me to miss 85% on my snatch today. But then after two nights of 8 hours of sleep, I was back to normal self killing it and feeling great!
Acute fatigue scenarios is what we are experiencing most of the time, and understanding what factors cause those days will help us limit poor performance and align our lifestyles to be consistent high performers.
To define exactly what overtraining is further;
- Physiological state: it’s not a one time action, it is an accumulation of events and stressors that have your physical and mental abilities diminishing.
- Accumulation of ALL stress: It’s not just about training to much. The stressors are anything that causes a systemic response that forces the body to produce what we call the stress hormones (example, cortisol..). This can be relationship trouble’s, stressful times at work, sleep habits, environmental stress (pollutants), and bad lifestyle habits.
- Sustained decrease inmental and physical performance: Keyword here is sustained. This means if we were to graph out a timeline of performance and rate it, of both your mental and physical responses to the challenges asked of you in training. The graph would show a downward trend over period of weeks and months. Not just a single session went poorly, due to poor recovery protocols such as poor diet and sleep habits from the day prior.
This information was my summary of an article posted on Testosterone nation, read full article here.. https://www.t-nation.com/training/what-overtraining-is-and-isnt
What can cause overtraining?
There are actually very few cases of true overtraining that occur. overtraining will not happen by training 4-6 hours a week. Most documented cases of overtraining usually stem from an athlete training 5-6 days a week for 6-8 hours day for months. Documented cases means the athletes displayed;
- Low hormone (testosterone) levels
- Signs and feeling of depression
- Decrease in performance and ability to focus
- Low sex drive
So the chances that any of us are truely overtrained is highly unlikely. Which means if we are not feeling or responding the way we want, it is almost certainly a lifestyle choice or habit that we need to acknowledge, and then create a course of action to fix.
How and why is this relevant to the general members here at the gym or any other athlete?
The reason the topic of overtraining is important is so we know why we have these bad days and that knowing will prompt us to constantly audit our lifestyle choices. We need to audit the different areas of both 1) stress and 2) recovery protocols. By doing this we can game plan for better choices, which will allow for much better response to the training and the other stressors (work, diet, kids, etc..) we come across throughout our daily lives.
The next logical steps to the equation of consistent high performance and mostly just wanting ro feel better is… What are the proper recovery protocols? How much sleep do I need? How many times and how often should I train?
Check in next week as we discuss the answers more!!!
Thanks for reading!