Overtraining - Mostly Hype

For some reason, I've been seeing more articles warning their fitness readers about avoiding overtraining and stifling their progress. Honestly, I think it's much ado about nothing.

Here are a few I've seen:

1) Fit Bottomed Girls

2) MSN Article (Hint: if you're getting fitness information from MSN, you're unlikely to be overtraining at anything.)

3) I know I've seen more and can't recall the sites I saw them on…

Most common symptoms these sites say to look out for are:

  • Feeling cranky all the time
  • Not recovering fast enough / seeing performance hinderances
  • Getting sick more often
  • Getting weaker / losing muscle
Here's my problem with all of these: LIFE gets in the way of training all the damn time. Your boss or your significant other is probably getting you cranky. You're probably not sleeping enough. You're probably not eating right. You're probably not taking preventative precautions again illness and injury. And to say these are signs that you're working too hard is to create this cloud of fear around consistent hard work. Then we've got a slew of trainees who are going to pass on that workout because they might be overtrained. 


I'm not saying there aren't instances where overtraining and under-recovery occur. But for the vast majority of hobbyists and weekend warriors, you're not going to be seeing it. And I'll say there is one biological sure fire way to know that you are overtrained/ under-recovered: Elevated resting heart rate. 

I'm not telling you to take a baseline average and then measure it again every morning. If you're overtrained/ under-recovered, you're going to feel it beating in your chest and neck. In my three years of competitive weightlifting, I've had it happen to me once when I was being trained to death by my old coach. For a week, I'd wake up in the morning feeling like I'm having a panic attack. I took a four day vacation from training and ate like a pig that eats a lot, and I was back to form. 

Thing is, I was training hard nearly 3 hours a day, 6 days a week on top of a normal 40+ hour a week job. Whether it was over training or under recovery, I'll never know (there is only a slight difference, really). But the fact is, it takes hard, hard work to get there. 

So if you're feeling cranky, burned out, and tired, there are probably a lot of things going on in your life. Maybe you don't feel like you're in control of enough things in your life, maybe you need a vacation. More than likely, it's a mental or emotional thing. But don't go blaming your workout or your coach.