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How to Avoid Overtraining

How to Avoid Overtraining

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Published by John Hislop
Bill Starr
Bill Starr

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Published by: John Hislop on May 14, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Every serious strength athlete is guilty of doing far too much work in the weight room at one time or another. It's part of the process of getting stronger. Those who want to immprove their level of strength push to the edge. Sometimes, they slip right over it.Now, pushing so hard in the gym that you enter the state known as overtraining isn't a bad thing. In fact, I believe it's necessary. If you never push yourselfinto overtrainning' you're not striving hard enough. Becoming overtrained isn'tthe problem. The problem occurs when you don't recognize the conndition and continue to overwork.Being overtrained isn't the same thing as having a bad workout or even a seriesof bad workouts. When you're overtrained, you're chronically fatigued. That causses all your numbers to drop and your form on all the lifts to sufffer. Overtraining is closely linked to recovery. Rest is a critical variable in the quest forgetting bigger and stronger, which means that the very best clue as to whetheryou're doing too much work is how well you're sleeping. If you're not sleeping soundly and you're waking up tired even when you do get enough rest, you should consider making some adjusttments in your training.There are other indicators that you're doing too muchphysical exercise, one being that you start dreading going to the gym or doing your chosen aerobic exerrcise. When you do train, you go through the routine likea robot-a tired robot. In most cases appetite also drops off, which causes bodyyweight loss, and since bodyweight is a critical factor in gaining strength, thenumbers start falling. That spurs many to try to do even more to recover the lost gains, and that, of course, creates a downward spiral.If you don't make some alterrations, the problems get worse. An overworked person is more suscepptible to various illnesses, such as colds, flu, strep throat and mononucleosis. The chronic fatigue brings on irritability and frustrationat events that normally don't mattter. Aches and pains are more commmon, and thepossibility of sustaining an injury is much higher. Part of the reason for thegreater risk comes from the fact that techhnique suffers when you're overly tired. Poor form results in a greater chance of injury.Understand that people seldom become overtrained for just one reason. It's generally a series of variables that add up. In most cases the underlying causes canbe found outside the gym, rather than in the routine itself. That's the reason it's so important for strength coaches to talk to their athletes. They need to know what their athletes are doing and what they did the night before. If, for example, an athlete has been up all night preparing a term paper, the odds are thathe or she is going to be more tired than usual. Adjusting the workout acccordingly can help prevent a poor training session.Many forms of stress can influuence training. Moreover, what connstitutes stressfor one person may not bother another at all. Most college athletes get stressed out during midterms and finals-but not all of them. Many actually thrive at those times, and their lifL:; go up. The same thing goes for changes in the weather, e pecially in those areas of the coun~' :he: the shifts are drastic. \\ben eweather turns extremely cold. or hot, some people are -e . - _ ly affected by the change. Others enjoy the variation.Stresses created by problems in personal relations are very commmon. The breakupof a romance can be devastating to some peoople, while to others it means little. Family tragedies, however, always take their toll. The death or severe illness of a loved one invariably has its effect in the gym.
In addition to outside forces, there are training-related variables that can increase the possibility of your becoming overtrained. Many people fall into the trap of doing too much too fast because they're anxious to regain their former strength levels. That's common for members of sports teams whoonl do an abbreviated strength program-or none at all-during the season. Once they start on the off-season routine, they want to O'et back to the numbers they were -in the year before. In mostcas it' easy to do be'cause. :e already broken the numm·er. howe\'er, a fast climb- them into a state of _ eca e it takes timeThe body needs some time to adapt to the increased demands placed on it. So hitting a plateau doesn't always indicate that you should increase your workload.to build the foundation, whether it's the first time around or the second or third.Another way many fall into overrtraining is that they try to follow a routine they found in a magazine. Never mind that the program comes from a very advanced strength athlete or bodybuilder who devotes most of his time to training. When working people who have families try to follow the rouutine, they end up doing toomuch and their lifts slip backward.Beginners become overtrained because they try to carry too great a workload before they've establisheda solid enough foundation. In those cases it's rarely the primary exercises thatcause the trouble. Usually it's the auxiliary movements. Beginnners don't overwork their legs or backs, but they do overrload their upper bodies. They want a bigger bench press or larger arms and thicker chests", so they will often, spend a full hour working those bodyparts after they've already done their three primary exercises. It always takes its toll.I mention again the fact that having one or two poor sessions doesn't always mean you're overtrained. In many cases a lack of energy in the weight room stems directly from a faulty diet or poor sleep habits. I don't mean not~ being able to rest because of ~fatigue but, rather, not gett~ting sufficient rest due to, say, ;too many late-night parties. ~If people are dragging ~throughtheir workouts bee:>cause they didn't get enough sleep the night before, the solution is basic: Get to bed earlier than usual and do some catching up. Contraryto the popular notion, you can catch up on your rest.The same advice holds true with regard to diet. People get superbusy and neglectto eat properly, resortting to fast food. That will have an adverse effect on hard training, so change it. Get a good protein powwder and start drinking milkshakes right after you train. They'll do wonders for your recovery, and, of course, recovery is the key to avoidding the condition known as overrtraining.Everyone hits a plateau on nearly all of his or her lifts at one time or another. That doesn't necessarily mean the person is overtrained. It's a normal part ofgetting stronger. Runners also go through that phase, and everyone who has ever
gone through basic training in the military understands it well. Reecruits arepushed to the very limit, made to run farther and farther each day. Eventually,they're tired to the bone, but the instructors don't let up. For several weeks the newservicemen can barely make it through a day, then, almost miracuulously, they aren't nearly as tired and can do more than before.It happens in any physical activiity. The body needs some time to adapt to the increased demands placed on it. So hitting a plateau doesn't always indicate thatyou should decrease your workload. One thing you can do to aid your cause whenit happens, however, is try to get more rest. If you're in a position to slip ina nap, do it. If not, get to bed a bit earlier. A half hour extra can be a godsend.Overtraining can occur when people start slipping in extra activiities outside the weight room, such as playing too much recreational basketball before they lift. That happens on any college campus because athletes love basketball. After playing a full-court game for an hour, though, they have little left for the weights. If they persist in doing both for too long, they'llbecome overtrained, since they seldom have a solid enough foundation to carry that sort of load.People who decide to start doing some form of aerobics often run into the same problem. It's not the aerobics per se, but they do too much too soon. Any new physiical activity should be added to the total scheme of things gradually. Less isbetter in the early going because every form of exercise, whether it's running,racquetball, baskettbailor some other sport, stresses the body in a different manner, and it takes (continued on page 146)(continued from page 143) time for the body to adapt to the new stress.Serious strength atWetes are never satisfied. If they do a 5000pound squat, they're immediately thinking about doing 525. That attitude, which is essential in achampion athlete in any sport, is also responsible for their doing too much toosoon. The increases have to come gradually, and for some that's hard to do. Many athletes increase the intensity on a lift at the same time they increase the workkload. That's too much. If you're working to improve a max single on a lift,you should not also be trying to increase the total amount of work on that lift.One or the other is okay, but both will be too much.I'm always talking about the importance of figuring out the ·eeldy and montWy workload, and --. . one area where it's very help-- Once you know for certain just- uch tonnage you're handling- :ee - or month, it's much easierPlan your diet to ensure that you'll be properly fueled for the stress ahead. Asin most of life, it's the little things that make a difference.to design a program that will let you do a bit more or, if you feel the need, abit less. If you don't know the exact numbers, it's guesswork, and that's an invitation to probblems.Let's say you've determined that you're overtrained. You've calculatted your weekly workload, and it came out to 110,000 pounds. For

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