You hear it a lot many coaches or people will tell you about the dangers of “Overtraining” With this, people are told overtraining will lead to reduced performance, stalls in progress and in the worst case injuries. The argument is strong for overtraining, but why is it that Jane in the gym can do 2 Metcons a day, 5 days a week, but, James may only be able to do 4 workouts in a week? Does over training even exist? We are going to look at this slightly differently and question if overtraining is even a thing, or could it just be that people are under recovering? Are they even the same thing?
WHAT IS OVERTRAINING?
Classically defined, “overtraining” is simply when the overall volume of a training regimen exceeds an individual’s ability to recover. In practice, this usually occurs when an someone goes above and beyond what a coach would recommend, thinking that “more is better” and “suffer through the pain”
While it is great people are willing to go the extra mile, training too hard, too often, this will negatively affect performance. To the casual observer, this is overtraining, but the reality is there are very few top athletes that overtrain.
BUT IS IT?
While we won’t argue that overtraining doesn’t exist, we will argue that the term is often misused. Setting the focus on training is the wrong way to frame the problem. It’s not just the time spent in the gym that leads to performance improvements, but even more so the time spent outside the gym, recovering.
It’s not that most people are overtrained, it’s that most people under-recover.
SO WHICH IS IT?
Sleep. Nutrition. Hydration. Mobility. How many of you spend as much time focusing on your recovery as you do on your hours in the gym?
How many of you would benefit from eight hours of sleep each night, three good meals, a 20 minute mobility session and remembering to drink water throughout the day?
In my experience, anyone who “overtrains” simply hasn’t put enough focus into their recovery. It’s easiest to think about the issue like this: there are 24 hours in the day. Let’s say two of those are spent training. What happened to the other 22?
So ask yourself how is how is your sleep schedule, did you eat out, what have you drank, how much stress have you had at work, or home and just how much mobility have you focused on the last week?
Of course, it’s impossible to control every facet of your life., but you do need days off. You do need de-load weeks in the gym, and again this isn’t overtraining this is under recovering.
Let’s go back to Jane who does 2 Metcons a day, 5 days a week v James who does 4 a week. Jane has a part time job and gets 7 – 8 hours sleep a night while James has a new born baby and works in London Monday- Friday and is lucky to get 5 hours a sleep a night. James is going to struggle to get the sleep he needs or the recovery he needs to do more volume.
If you are hitting a slump in the gym, or feel a loss of motivation take a look at what you are doing to help yourself recover rather than just throw more hours in the gym. Just because you are used to 5 hours sleep a night, or eating takeaway on a regular basis doesn’t mean you will be performing at optimal levels but working out where you can make small changes to aid this recovery will make a massive difference.
The difference between great performance and just getting by a lies in the boring: the day-to-day focus on eating right, sleeping well, working your mobility and hydrating. If you can take away one thing, it’s this; the importance of recovery instead of the pitfalls of overtraining. So rather than trying to cram more hours into the gym look at spending that extra hour, meal prepping or getting to bed earlier and see how much of a difference it makes to your overall well being and performance in the gym after 3 weeks.