There has been a lot of talk recently about “overtraining” and “over-reaching”. For the purposes of my wee blog I’m not going to get into definitions but let’s define it as some form of additional work that results in a regression as opposed to progression.
I think when regression occurs in training we are quick to point the finger at too much training volume — but there are other factors that we may be ignoring.
I think the body cannot differentiate between stresses — it’s all just a physiological LOAD on the body. Think about it as different taps (stressors) that are pouring into the same tub (the body). It’s not what “taps” are open, it’s how much water is in the tub! Your body can’t differentiate between physical stress and any other type of stress.
If you are having financial difficulties, relationship issues, college finals, family illness all at the same time — a twice a day intense training routine is more likely to “break” you than if everything else in your life was great. And if you think about it — it’s the only such stress that you can totally control.
It’s important to look at the body as a whole. If a client is sick — some of their resources have to go to fighting off the illness, so their ability to train is reduced. Most coaches understand that.
I believe it’s the same when other factors (money, relationships, career) are taken into account.
In my experience – any clients with high stress in their life respond better to higher intensity, lower volume routines. Volume seems to be the key norm in controlling “overtraining”.
I’ve seen advances in the field to address “Readiness” recently – heart rate variability, and several questionnaires that include things like – sleep quality, mood, appetite, soreness, facial freshness, desire to train etc on a scale of 1-5.
Low scores (either with HRV or a questionnaire) shows that your body is not ready for heavy workouts.
It’s just a monitoring system — but in my experience most coaches pay almost ZERO attention to recovery issues, and almost 100% to training issues.
But you don’t get better by training — you get better by RECOVERING FROM training.
When I think about it – any of my elite guys who have had recovery issues in training usually have had a ton of other things going on (in particular I can remember one guy’s poundages going in the tank when he and his wife were going through fertility treatment – the only thing that changed in his life).
However at the general public level I tend to see guys do too much work for their results. I could probably eliminate almost 40% of the average guys program and see no drop off in results.
Are they overtraining as most are trying to define it ? No – but they are doing too much training to achieve their results and thereby limiting training effectiveness. This tends to be a bigger key actually.
Looking at training volume in relation to results is a useful tool. But you have to consider all the other stresses going on at the same time. It’s not just how many sets or reps you are doing — it’s the entire volume of “Stress” that your body is undergoing.