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Why We Overtrain (and won’t take rest days)


Why We Overtrain (and won’t take rest days)

800m run
30 muscle-ups / snatch
800m run

Ben tags Walker in a team workout while Dizon waits for Hank. Julia observes.

Why We Overtrain

Before we bring all of this rest day business full circle and talk about how to apply it to your everyday life, let’s take one last post to examine the three main reasons I think people overtrain.

1. The “cool-looking” Workout
This scenario is fairly CrossFit-specific.  Athlete needs rest day – peaks at day’s post – sees cool attractive workout – goes online to see if there’s space (there is!) – reserves spot and bam, the product is 5-6 days in a row.

The temptation of the “cool-looking” workout is great, we know.  Thoughts such as, “that might not come up for a long time so I want to make sure I do it”, “I missed this last time so I HAVE to get it in this time”, or “everything has rep loads over 100 so it must be awe-some” flash through our head.

We know CrossFit is fun, addictive, and well, really fun.  It’s hard to choose NOT to come to the shop, hangout with your workout buddies, and sweat through a grindfest.  We get it, but remember that too many dives into the “cool-looking” workout trap will leave you overtrained and slogging through sub-optimal workout after sub-optimal workout.

2. Getting Ahead or More is Better Syndrome
The 2012 Regionals are just 395 days away and not a moment can be lost letting athletes across the Rockies gain an edge.  I must get stronger.   Oh wait, and better and gymnastics too.  And wait, my Oly needs some work.

CrossFit provides us with this wonderful array of exercises and movements to learn and perfect but it can also lead to a schizophrenic phase where an athlete tries to do everything all the time. Pick your battles and make them small, challenging, yet attainable, and then move one.  Don’t try to conquer the world on four different continents.   You know more isn’t better, that’s what CrossFit has taught you.

3. Burning Calories
If I don’t workout then I won’t have burned any calories today and if I don’t do that then I’ll surely get fat.  Stop connecting diet and exercise!  They are two separate pieces of a healthy profile.  Did you know that people actually GAIN weight when they are overtrained or under-slept?  That’s right.  So take a rest day and please please do frame your beautiful CrossFit workout in calories burned – stick with pounds lifted, time, and rounds!

So did we miss anything?  Are there other reasons why we overtrain?  Post to comments.


DISCLAIMER: By writing this post I am not saying that I have never overtrained.  I have; however, I paid the consequences.  We all need to be reminded about the downfalls of overtraining as it’s something that constantly tempts athletes, including me.


6 Responses

  1. Stacey

    Just wondering what folks think about classes like restorative yoga or recovery type classes at other gyms or on your own.  Insert your own “boulder-y” phrase here.  (Like an easy bike, run, hike.)  Must a rest day consist of no activity? 

    Also, what about crossfit workouts that are very body-part specific, like the shoulder press workout last Saturday?  How do those workouts factor into the big picture?   Could that sort of class be somewhat of a rest day, if it’s sandwiched between two days that are primarily cardio or leg-focused?

    I know that in the summer I get in the mindset to do something active every day, if possible.  (After being in a classroom all year.)  I think I rationalize this by telling myself that the different kinds of activity include some built-in recovery……but now I am re-thinking all of it.  Thoughts?

    1. Stacey, great questions.  There are such things as active recovery days where you remain active but at a MUCH lower intensity.  Let’s say your legs are just fried from wallball 2fer1’s.  I wouldn’t go out the next day and sprint up Sanitas but a short hike or bike ride of low to moderate intensity certainly wouldn’t hurt anything and would probably help to speed recovery and reduce soreness.  OR how about 20 minutes of stretching and mobility work ;).  We could all use a little more of that.

      A lifting day however is NOT a rest day.  Refer to my post above.  In the end we all just need to be smart about what we choose to do and listen to our bodies.  There is a difference between feeling soreness and feeling fatigued.  Overtraining leaves you feeling energy-less both mentally and physically.  It can even go as far as feelings of depression if it gets severely carried away.  

      Get plenty of sleep, keep stress to a min, eat right and listen to what your body is telling you and you’ll be fine.  Remember, when caveman wasn’t running around chasing food he was lounging in the shade.

      For more info:

  2. I think sometimes we associate getting a good workout in with lying on the floor in a puddle of our own sweat trying to catch our breath.  Wods that are strength based usually don’t leave us feeling that way so we can walk away feeling like we didn’t do much that day and maybe we’ll pull a double because of it.  BAD IDEA.  Strength wods are just as taxing if not more so than any other wods we do and likewise they deserve proper rest and recovery afterwards if we expect those strength gains to actually occur.

    If you associate a strength day with an “easy” day then you are not pushing yourself hard enough.  If you’re not a bit nervous about going back under that bar for your last 5RM squats then it’s probably too light.  Attack strength days with the same ferocity as you would a Fran or a Cindy and you’ll know you got a good workout in that day and you’ll cherish the fact that you get to rest afterwards.

  3. Nicole

    I second everything that Shane wrote!!  Especially, “if you associate a strength day with an “easy” day then you are not pushing yourself hard enough.”  

  4. Ali

    Great post series!!  I know I’ve struggled a lot since I moved back to Boulder trying to CrossFit, hike, bike (rarely make it on my bike!) and do strength in a sane and balanced way.    Still working on it…

  5. Pingback : and on the hundreth day we rest… | PALEO NINJAS