How to Avoid Overtraining: Aches and Ibuprofen
Many will say that you need to listen to your body to avoid overtraining. I disagree to a minor degree. To avoid overtraining, you need to listen to your performance.
If you simply listen to your body, training would cease for most of us. We wake up sore in places we didn’t know existed. The soreness lasts for days on end. Aches and ibuprofen play a daily role in your life. Workouts are hard, and training is rough.
Coaches make us do the things we hate, and more often than not, NEED the most. Being uncomfortable, and asking more of your body than it is necessarily prepared to handle is part of the process. It is the only way that we are able to stimulate growth in performance.
The principle of progressive overload not only applies to weights, but also workout intensity. Once your body establishes a baseline for performance in which you can hit numbers day in and day out, without any extra effort, the only way you’re going to get any better is to move more weight, or move through a workout faster or one more rep.
For example, if you can hit a back squat at 265 pounds for 5 sets of 3 reps, and it is guaranteed, at best you will only maintain that performance. To move past this benchmark, to move the needle to the right so to speak, can be done in one of 2 ways: accomplish 5×3 at 275 pounds, or stay at 265 pounds and push for sets of 5-8reps.
Take this sample workout:
12 Push Ups
12 Toes to Bar
12 Kettle Bell Swings
As time goes on and this workout is repeated, you discover that regardless of what training you’ve done leading up to this workout, you can mange to get it done right around 9 minutes without taking your body to that “dark place”. The only way to elicit a training response here is to pick up your tempo, condense time in transition, and attempt to complete 4 Rounds FASTER.
So that’s how we make progress. But how do we avoid overtraining. Using our two examples here, listening to your performance will tell you all you need to know. If that same 5×3 at 265 becomes a struggle, where it was a guarantee, or that same 4 rounds is taking you 10-12 minutes. Chances are that you’re overtraining.
I will place this disclaimer on everything I’ve just said: we all have bad days. Don’t allow yourself to take a single bad performance, and attribute it to overtraining. That’s naive. However, if you begin to string together a week’s worth of terrible training, getting to the gym is a chore, you don’t approach training with enthusiasm, and most importantly, your performance is suffering consistently, NOW YOU ARE OVERTRAINING.
To avoid this phenomenon, we mix modes and movements. You can indeed squat EVERYDAY. There is a difference, from one day to the next, between 3×5 at 80% Back Squat, then hitting 150 Wall Ball Shots, followed by training to a heavy single squat clean on day 3, polished off with an AMRAP that has air squats in 10’s throughout.
We can also simply give the stimulus a break, hit a long cardiovascular, skill driven WOD. Switch the barbell for gymnastics. Do something short and heavy. Mixing it up, is a great way to give your system a break, and still make progress as time goes on.
By following a solid program and paying attention to how you are performing over time, you will be able avoid overtraining, while still training everyday.