Is your fitness suffering thanks to overtraining ?

One of the things we have likely all seen a lot of during this lockdown period is unqualified Fitness Influencers (seriously, someone still needs to explain what this even is!) and even in some cases PT’s and fitness brands setting up crazy bodyweight challenges as a way to “help” people maintain their fitness during lockdown. 

Think being challenged to do 100 squats, then add 100 push ups, oh and 100 lunges and hey, why not, do 100 burpees while you’re there… and lets do that every day for 7/14/30 days! 

So, maybe you are thinking that sounds banging, its hardcore, Yeah! push the limits!… and you’d be right, IF you did that workout maybe twice a month, although that could still be deemed excessive, depending on your current fitness level. 

Indeed, one of my favourite workouts is one of the CrossFit Girls – Angie; ‘For Time 100 Pull Ups, 100 Push Ups, 100 Sit Ups and 100 Air Squats’
However, as much as I love it, it’s a workout I will likely do 3 times a year, at the most! In fact I think I’ve done it twice in the last two years. There is a value to doing high rep work but doing so often is just counter productive and probably a waste of your time. 

Personally, I am huge fan of the minimal dose response, which basically means achieving the desired result with the minimum amount of work required. Do you really need to do 100 squats for 7 days? I’m going to guess that the answer is no! Its a pretty safe bet you can get where you want to go with a smarter approach.

You have to ask the question “why I am doing this?” “what is it achieving?” and if you don’t know and the person setting the challenge cannot give you a good explanation beyond “Do it! “Go Hard or Go Home’ then do you know what… don’t do it! 

These are the main issues to consider: 

Can the average gym goer actually maintain proper alignment and form for 100 reps?
Take the squat as one example…
Let’s be frank, there are a fair few videos circulating showing people doing these types of challenges and squatting with poor form. Now, I know not everyone has the hip or ankle mobility to be able to squat to or below parallel but a good majority of people don’t even know that this is the standard to aim for.
We see shallow depth, knees pushed in front of toes, chests falling forward and hunched shoulders to name but a few issues. Whats the point of doing 100 reps when the first rep isn’t good?
Quality over quantity at all times and if you know you cannot squat to parallel with good form then put the work in on your mobility to fix the issue. This would be a much better use of your time! Same goes for every other movement.

Injury Risk
Let’s just take a second to consider the injury risks for the volume of repetitive work, especially when repeated over multiple days. The possible shoulder, knee or hip problems that might arise are plentiful so why would you take the risk. So many people are willing to push through workouts suffering from aches and pains and I never understand why. I constantly have to talk to class members about long term success over short term gain. 

Overtraining – Volume and Intensity
Simply put overtraining occurs when you the work you put in exceeds the bodies ability to recover. So, doing the same movement pattern over and over again, and then again, and then again will not allow the muscle groups involved to recover. When the muscles aren’t allowed to recover, they can’t perform properly so the end result is a drop in output.
There is a huge difference between overloading and overtraining. When done right and applied properly, the overload principle will yield brilliant results. Maybe some of these people plan these excessive workouts thinking that they will achieve overload but unfortunately not! They have tipped over into over training.

Overtraining – Duration
Some say over training, some say under recovery. Both amount to the same thing and both are correct. As well as programming excessive amounts of reps and high volume work, the other way to over train the body is by skipping rest days. Often these challenges are set with “Hey, lets do this every day for a month!” Yeah, great, let me know how that works out for you in the end!
Why is it seen as hardcore to say screw it to the rest day? Anyone with this attitude clearly doesn’t understand how to programme fitness effectively.. if this is your coach, please… walk away now!
The body needs recovery time. It’s as simple as that. Without recovery not much will happen in terms of progress. It often feels like rest is a dirty word. How often have I heard “it’s ok, I’ll rest when I’m dead”! OK then. But why not send your time alive actually making positive adaptations and seeing progress rather than just wearing your body and mind into the ground. Yes, to see change you need to force an adaptation. You need to stress the body and trigger it to adjust to the new stimulus. Just not all the time!

There are so many negative effects related to overtraining aside from the injury risk and drop in performance and ability. Maybe you aren’t actually injured but it is likely you will suffer from increased inflammation. It can also affect your amount and quality of sleep.

Ask yourself.. is it worth it?

Train smart, rest well and achieve something truly bad ass!

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