The topic of overtraining is a highly debated topic among many different types of fitness groups and can vary person to person. Some people will rest at the mere sign of a cold, while others will keep on working out even if they are sick. Some believe you must push through to the pain cave to get results while others support listening to your body and stopping if need be. Everyone has their own opinion about what overtraining is and I am no exception. I’m not here to tell you one way or the other but I am here to offer you some tips based on my experiences on how not to over-train. These may vary depending on your goals but I want to help you guys get the most out of your fitness, no matter what stage you are at! Here are my tips to avoid overtraining!
- Don’t add volume for volume’s sake.
One of CrossFit’s founding principles is mechanics, consistency and then intensity. To sum this up, you should be doing your movements with good mechanics and consistently training good reps. Once this is done, then you can add intensity. By intensity I mean performing these reps faster or using heavier weights. Then the process repeats: good mechanics and consistent reps. Once this is achieved, then add more intensity and so on and so forth. If you aren’t doing this then there is no reason to add extra workouts, extra reps and extra work. It’s better to give one workout all your intensity then it is to give half effort to five different workouts. The exception to this is competitive athletes. Pertaining to CrossFit, this would include regional and games athletes. They have to train high volume for when they perform multiple workouts over a few short days.
- Listen to your body/Know what to listen for
I have a love/hate relationship with this statement. I believe that we definitely have to be in tune with our bodies whether it’s about how much sleep were getting, how food makes us feel and how workouts make us feel. There is often a very fine line between being in pain and thinking you’re in pain. More often than not, our bodies are telling us we can’t go on. Our lungs burn, our quads are tired and we couldn’t possibly do one more squat or one more pull-up. This is where most people might quit but it’s in these moments that we get stronger. This is one of those moments that you can’t listen to your body and you push through. However if in this moment your back hurts when you squat or your shoulder feels funny after some pull-ups, then stop! There’s no reason to risk an injury for a short term victory. Remember we want to apply our fitness to other activities in our lives!
- Take a rest day at least once a week
This may seem like common sense but I know I go through periods of time where I don’t think I need a rest day. I’m a big fan of active recovery and definitely think it’s helpful. However, I think it’s really important to not over do it on these days. I usually take two rest days a week (Thursday and Sunday). One of these days I’ll usually still go into the gym and do some rowing or light lifting or I’ll go on a run. If I do this one day, I make sure the other rest day is much less stressful. I’ll go on a 30 minute walk or an easy bike ride or sometimes I won’t do anything. I think it’s just as beneficial physically as it is mentally. People often forget that working out is still another form of stress. Let your body have a break!
Interested in learning more about overtraining? Check out these great resources:
- Mark Sisson’s post on 8 signs that you are overtraining
- A podcast episode from Robb Wolf about exercising after overtraining
- Balanced Bites’ take on the effects of overtraining