Saturday, March 14, 2009

Overtraining, part 1 - How much is too much?

I've been meaning to write about for a while. In fact, I started writing a blog post over Christmas. My recent schedule of undertrained weekdays and full-bore weekends was the nudge I needed to start putting my unfinished thoughts out there. Today's workout, where I combined elements of two day's training, seemed as good a point as any to start the series.

I guess I should start with an explanation of what I'm talking about. Put simply, overtraining is what happens when you push yourself beyond your physiological capacity to recover. Give this a little thought, and you’ll realize that there are some fuzzy edges to this definition. If you do Diane today, you’ll probably do fine with shoulder presses tomorrow, but you might struggle with 400m sprints, because you won’t have fully recovered from the DLs and won’t perform optimally. Does this mean you’re overtrained? If you’ve got a track meet it does. If you’re hitting the next WOD, it’s just overload by design.

Physiologic overload is necessary to produce adaptation. In the simplest setting, you put more weight on the bar or perform a greater number of reps than you have previously to stimulate your muscles to get stronger. You rest, and then you do it again.

CFers as a group are driven. As such, we’re prone to believe that a little extra work after a WOD or an extra session in the gym is what we need. But mainpage Crossfit as Rx’d is powerful medicine. Many of the top athletes at the Games do nothing other than warmup, practice some light skill work, and hit the WOD as hard as they can every day. They get their rest, they eat well, and they come back and do it again. They are as dedicated to their recovery as they are to their workouts. It’s not as glamorous, but it is just as important, especially when you start pushing your limits.

Don’t underestimate that middle step in the process – rest. Adequate rest and nutrition is essential to getting the most out of your training. To paraphrase Rip in a way that I've said so many times, I could put it to music, we don’t get fit from training hard, we get fit by recovering from training hard.

I have some experience with overtraining. Last fall, I had a series of injuries trying to fit just about everything into my hybrid training program each day. I've gotten smarter about it, and I've been glad to have the benefit of the resarch that Jeff Martin put into the CrossFit Strength Bias program to get a sense what a reasonable hybrid workload looks like. I've been making reasonable progress on the program, but haven't been at it long enough to get everything dialed in right. This past week, I've put up some strong numbers, but I think that has to do with working too much to train properly. Essentially, I've had an involuntary deload period, like I might use before a competition to maximize performance at that competition.

My goal, however, is to maximize my performance in late May. I honestly don't know if my off week was good or bad for me. We all need rest once in a while. However, some pretty sharp coaches (Greg Glassman, Bill Starr, John Gilson) believe that the best gains are made when you're in a slightly overtrained state. You won't win any competitions that way unless you have a deload period, but by being continually overtrained, you force your body to adapt. The trick, of course, is figuring out how to balance that equation of necessary overload versus necessary rest. That I'll leave for another day.


Row 500m 1:52 (took it slow this cold morning)
Air squats, goblet squats, lunge & hip flexor stretches
Shoulder mobility drills
Burgener warmup

Heavy stuff
Back squat 45x5
Box squat 45x5, 135x3, 155x2, 175x1, 175x2x5, 180x2x5 (work sets done on the minute)
Shoulder press 45x5, 95x3, 105x3, 115x3, 125x3, 130x2, 90x10-7-4 (1:00 rest b/w sets for 10-7-4)

Skill work
Snatch 65x5, 95x2, 115x2

5 rounds:
    Snatch 115x3
    Squat clean & thruster 115x3
    Hang power clean 115x3
    2:00 rest between rounds
?, 0:52, 1:12, 0;54, 0:47

Core work
30 abmat situps

This workout left me positively smoked. That's a good thing. Tomorrow's deadlifts probably won't go as well as last Sunday, but I think, I think that it was the right way to attack the weekend. I'll probably know by midweek. I'm my own guinea pig.

1 comment:

John said...

Looks like you had a great workout. That metcon looks suitably painful!