Overtraining 101

Note: This post is for folks who workout/train/exercise regularly.



Day after day people walk into gyms/training centers and beat the piss out of themselves. Make no mistake, I’m all for pushing till I drop in a conditioning workout because it helps improve endurance and power generation. But at the cost of what?

A lot of people who work out consistently don’t know the difference between training and over-training. I’m talking about you…

  • The stupid athlete who absolutely needs a hardcore conditioning workout every damn day that leaves him flat on the floor.
  • The treadmill freak who has to run the race distance at least a few times before the race.
  • The HIIT maniac who has to push his limits in every session to get the ‘feeling’ of having worked out.
  • The stupid weight lifter who expects to set a personal record (PR) every time he lifts.
  • The bodybuilder who has to pay a visit to the gym every day of the week with little to no rest days for recovery.

So let’s start from scratch.

What is training?

  • To prepare physically, as with a regimen: train athletes for track-and-field competition.
  • To focus on or aim at (a goal, mark, or target).

What is over-training?

  • The physical, behavioral, and emotional condition that occurs when the volume and intensity of an individual’s exercise exceeds his/her recovery capacity.
  • The individual ceases making progress, and can even begin to lose strength and fitness.

What is exercise?

  • Any bodily activity that enhances or maintains physical fitness and overall health or wellness.
  • Exercise is stress and overdoing it will hurt you.
  • The right thing to do is to control that stress and use it in a way that it is beneficial to you (and in turn your health and longevity).
  • A training program should help you ‘progress’ without compromising health or safety or quality of life.

What is the main cause of over-training?

Just like how people prefer fancy food and movies with awesome production values, people prefer doing ‘glamorous exercises’ that have a ‘wow factor’ to it. Don’t get me wrong – this is awesome because it makes the lazy losers move their asses, but for a serious gym rat/fitness freak, this poses huge risks and drawbacks.

What are ‘glamorous exercises‘?

  • High intensity exercises that leave you drowning in a puddle of your own sweat (or puke!).
  • Frequent short and intense exercises which promise greater fat loss.
  • Endorphin releasing long endurance activities that are portrayed as a ‘test of heart and character’.
  • High volume high intensity lifting programs that leave you sore for days after.

Why are these ‘glamorous exercises‘ dangerous?

  • They have so much media attention that you are considered a wimp if you don’t do them.
  • They are super addictive that you feel like shit if you don’t do them a little too often.
  • They make you give a 120% on any given day irrespective of what your body is capable of that day.
  • They trick you into thinking that you are ‘tough’ when all you are is ridiculously stupid.
  • They result in fatigue and unavoidable over-training.
  • Over-training results in sucky performance and inevitable injury.

What is my advice?

  • Chill the f**k out!
  • Progress ≠ Training hard and stupid; Progress = Training smart

What is training hard and stupid?

  • Frequent and long High Intensity Training (HIT) until you burn out.
  • Lifting with max effort everyday which fries up your Central Nervous System (CNS).
  • Training 2-a-days (twice a day) without required rest and nutrition.
  • Excessive endurance training (greater than 60 mins) more than twice a week.
  • Doing the same activity everyday every week every month.

What is training smart?

  • Infrequent and short High Intensity Training (HIT): 5-15min long sessions 1-2 times a week.
  • Limited max effort lifting: Strive for PRs once in 2-4 wks (depending on your status). Lift sub-maximal loads during other sessions.
  • Limited endurance training: Endurance gains can be seen from well planned infrequent sessions. If you’re training for a marathon, be sure to cross-train, do some calisthenics/light weight lifting and elaborate stretching to strengthen the muscles around your joints so they don’t fall apart after the 50,000 steps you will need to complete it.
  • Plenty of rest: Space out your training sessions. All the hard work and clean eating will be instantly undone if recovery is not in place.
  • Adding in variety: Workout at various different intensities, volumes and durations making use of different techniques. This will keep your CNS fresh and your body free chronic injuries due to overuse of any given part.

Always remember – the goal is to grow stronger, leaner, faster and hence healthier with each passing day. And sometimes the magic is in toning it down.

– Peace out

(Photo credit: http://www.ironmagazine.com)

6 responses to “Overtraining 101

  1. Mahesh October 20, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    That rings a bell!! Been there once upon a time..when I overtrained..and got injured..learnt from my mistakes..good post..definitely a must read for people who train all at once, who focus on obtaining quick results rather than focusing on their performance goals and achieve the results slow and steady 🙂

  2. Pingback: Overtraining 102 – Symptoms, Prevention and Cure « Harder. Better. Faster. Stronger.

  3. Pingback: Raj, it’s just a workout! « Harder. Better. Faster. Stronger.

  4. Pingback: But rice is not paleo! « Harder. Better. Faster. Stronger.

  5. asaucerfulofacookssecrets February 19, 2011 at 9:43 pm

    Just came across your blog a few days ago and I am enjoying much of your posts so far. Straight forward no bullshit is the way to go!

  6. Pingback: The future of health & fitness « Harder. Better. Faster. Stronger.

%d bloggers like this: