Are you overtraining?

Are you “Overtraining”??  How do you know?  What are some guidelines to follow?

First, let me just say that there are 2 common situations I run into with “overtraining” –

1)  The person who is new to the workouts (within the first couple weeks) and asks me if they are overtraining because they are sore / tired / etc..  They are NOT overtraining!  They are following the schedule, and the schedule is not overtraining.  The P90X3, Body Beast, and T25 schedules build in rest days, use periodization to vary the workouts, and use recovery weeks to prevent overtraining.  Yes, it’s HARD.  It’s ROUGH.  But it’s not overtraining!

2) The person who wants to add muscle so they start adding in extra lift days, usually back to back with other lift days, in an effort to build more muscle.  This person can fall into overtraining!  And as a result, they are hurting their results more than helping!

So what’s the difference?  Here’s some good rules of thumb to keep in mind as you consider your own training / overtraining:

overtraining– The most common TRUE signs of overtraining are frequent illnesses, excessive sense of constant fatigue, decrease in performance on workouts / exercises, irritability, depression, and chronic over-use injuries like joint inflammation and tendonitis.

– Soreness is not overtraining.  It’s normal to get very sore when you first start these workouts.  You should not keep taking days off to recover from simple soreness before moving to the next workout.  It’s a shock to the system for sure, but you have to push play every day.  Your body will adjust and you’ll get stronger.  You will also notice that you get sore sometimes when switching to the next training block and doing new workouts.  That’s part of muscle confusion, and it’s a good thing.  Push play and keep going!

– There is a 48 hour rule for resistance training.  Keep this in mind when creating hybrids or doing any extra lifting.  If you do resistance work for a muscle group, the workout itself actually damages the muscle tissue.  It repairs, gets stronger, and grows during the rest that you give it afterward.  This rest should be 48 hours.  This means you shouldn’t lift with the same body part on back to back days, or you rob yourself of that repair process and actually HURT your muscle gains.  There are only a couple P90X lift days that you can do on back to back days — they are Back & Biceps and Chest/Shoulders/Tris.  There is no overlap of muscle groups with those 2 workouts.  Often I see people using a hybrid that does Chest and Back one day, followed by Shoulders and Arms the next.  This is detrimental.  Remember, a pushup uses the chest and the triceps.  A pullup uses the lats and the biceps.  Shoulder presses use the delts and the triceps.  It is easy to overtrain the biceps and triceps if you lift on back to back days, unless you make sure you aren’t overlapping the muscle groups.

– Cardio does not lead to overtraining very often.  People who have the time and energy to do extra cardio can have at it!  If you want to do P90X and also jog, play a sport, breakdance, or whatever, GO FOR IT!  Just listen to your body and be sure you aren’t getting some over-use injuries like inflamed joints, tendonitis, or shin splints.  But doubling up cardio with your other workouts, or doing cardio twice per day, is not usually going to lead to overtraining.  I’ll say this though — as an old guy (37), with a way too busy schedule, I rarely if ever do more than one workout in a day.  I play in a basketball league, so on my one night a week that I lace ‘em up, I technically do 2 workouts (whatever I had on my regular calendar PLUS my game), but other than that I’ve never felt like doing extra cardio was necessary to get great results and have a high level of fitness. I’d rather workout just once per day and keep my diet dialed in very tight than do extra cardio to make up for sloppy eating.

Remember, however, that these are just rules of thumb, and there are ALWAYS exceptions.  If you feel that you are sustaining specific symptoms like constant joint inflammation, tendonitis, shin splints, etc., then you need to give either those specific areas (or perhaps your whole body) a break.  Read my article “Injuries” for more on these chronic types of situations and modifications to consider.

So, how can we be sure we avoid overtraining??  Prevention is the key!  Listen to our bodies!  If we are running down, seeing a decrease in our performance, and getting chronic injuries or irritations, we need to back it off a bit.  In most cases, you will mentally lose the desire to workout and train before you physically run into overtraining. So even mentally, rest is the key.  Rest is the cure!  Turn off the TV and go to bed at night!  Sleep does wonders!

Also, follow the recovery weeks.  That’s why they are built into the programs.  Your body needs it.  Even if you hate recovery weeks, do them!

It’s also been shown that alternating workouts is a key to avoiding overtraining.  That’s the beauty of a hybrid that does cardio one day and lifting the next.  You can push hard, but you are taking a one day “rest” from the activity you did the previous day, which greatly reduces the likelihood that you’ll develop any overtraining symptoms.

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