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Old 12-12-2012, 11:01 PM   #20
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Default Re: I think i might be "overtrained"

Overtraining is NOT the act of "training too much". It is misinterpreted this way because the overtraining syndrome is a combination of "training" and "over" (too much). It really is a misnomer.

Overtraining is a physiological and neurological state, much like a burn out or a clinical depression for example. It's something that builds up over time, and just like with a burnout or a depression, some peoples are more prone to it that others.

Overtraining is a physiological state characterised by a chronic decrease in physical performance due to an accumulation of training and non-training related stress over time and that requires a long recovery period.

Four elements here:

1. A physiological state which I already aluded to.

2. Leading to a chronic decrease in physical performance. CHRONIC and DECREASE... this means that your physical performance goes down for a long period of time... just beause you have 2-4 bad workouts in a row where your strength is decreases doesn't mean that you are overtraining. However if your performance goes down over several months, yeah, you'r probably in an overtraining state.

3. Caused by a accumulation of training and non-training related stress over time: Several physiological and neurological stressors can facilitate the development of an overtraining state. Job-related stress and working too much, family problems, difficulties at school, environmental stressors (polution), illness, etc. It's not all about training stress. Furthermore, it takes a pretty long while under stress to develop a true overtraining syndrome.

4. That requires a long recovery period: if you have a few bad workouts, rest for a week then get back in the gym to find that your energy, motivation and strength are back up then chances are that you were NOT overtraining. Overtraining takes months to recovery from. Some athletes don't even ever completely recover from it.

I have attached a grpahic illustrating the various phase that you go through before reaching a true overtraining stress:

Acute fatigue: the fatigue/weakness that is felt after a grueling workout. This doesn't last long and is pretty much a necessary evil for optimal progress.

Accumulated fatigue: after a particularily hard and intense week of training you may feel wiped. This is likely due to an accumulation of fatigue from a succession of grueling workouts and incomplete recovery. Most elite athletes train this way 2 out of 3-4 weeks.

Chronic fatigue: after a super intense training block you might have a short term decrease in performance, a loss of motivation, etc. This is the first step in the "real overtraining" spectrum. It normally goes away after a deloading week or a few days of complete rest. For most peoples this state of chronic fatigue is what they consider "overtraining".

Overreaching: this is also called short term overtraining. It shares all the symptoms of overtraining BUT the situation can be recovered pretty rapidly if proper restoration measures are taken. A lot of athletes training for big competitions will overreach and then taper down their training to peak for the competition.

Overtraining: a true overtraining state can take years of excessive stress to develop. In all my life I've seen two cases of real overtraining and both times it was with olympic athletes and their "crash" occured the week after the games (the super high training volume and exceedingly high psychological stress pushed them over the edge) and it took them month of not training to get back to normal status... one actually stopped training and competing after that.

The facts are:

1. True overtraining is an occurance that will rarely be seen in a normal individual. Instinctively we cut back down either in volume, frequency or intensity when the first symptoms appear (chronic fatigue). Athletes are more at risk because they have a hard time cutting back, especially when they are training for a big competition. So they might force their body to train while they would probably need to rest. Athletes who reaches the preliminary state of overreaching normally train 20-30 hours a week and are under an exceedingly high level of psychological stress. This is not necessarily something that an individual training 6 hours per week risks.

2. Since non-training related stressors can contribute to the development of an overtraining state, it's logical that what constitutes an adequate training load will vary from one guy to the next. Someone working long hours at a physical job and who is under divorce proceedings while suffering from erectile dysfonction will have a much lower "training capacity" than someone who just won the lottery and doesn't have anything but training to do!

3. Overtraining is VERY close to clinical depression or burnout. Like with these two conditions, some individuals are genetically (or socially) pre-disposed to overtraining: they have a lesser capacity to tolerate stress. Individuals with a low stress tolerance are more at risk of overtraining than other individuals.

4. The more you train WITHOUT exceeding your capacity to recover, the more you'll progress. Obviously if the quality of work is low, then the stimulus will also be low and no amount of volume will be able to make up for that. But the more high quality training you can perform without underrecovering, the more you'll progress.
That seems to sum it all up pretty well.

By that I'd guess the OP is "overreaching" not overtraining?
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