Overtraining: Fact Or Fiction?
We all have influences as to why we would like to reach an optimal level of health. For one person it may be to reach a kick ass beach body to instill a deeper root of confidence in their lives, while for the next it may mean to be able to perform day-to-day tasks as efficiently as possible. One thing that all goals have in common is this. They start off as an extrinsic target, that is until they are associated with a habit that can no longer be endured. The only way to sustain drive over the long term and not fall short due to the inevitable complications along the way can be tricky. We must do so by building upon these emotions that surface and associate them with the negative contributors to the current lifestyle or habit at hand. Once embedded into the psyche, it has then transitioned that goal from being a mere “destination” to it being an intrinsic source of fuel and energy that will allow charge through ANY situation, no matter the circumstance.
My story started off very similar, being the typical scrawny boy of the bunch who had set out to prove everyone wrong by transforming stature, with much anger and resentment as the fuel.
Sure enough, the body evolved and questions began to emerge if whether or not this was the right way to go about it. Yes, I was able to change my physical appearance and educate myself through the periscope of the bodybuilding world, yet around this time the body had begun to feel the direct effect of CNS (Central nervous system) fatigue.
An often overlooked, basic concept of the human structure and well-being is the efficiency of one of our most important bodily units, the endocrine system. Many do not realize that the adrenal gland CAN NOT differentiate between stressors as mental or physical, but rather both as an integrated whole. If x level of stressors coming in seem to be overloading the hypothalamus/ adrenal gland relationship, the y levels of cortisol will inhibit proper function of many other bodily functions such as that of the immune, digestive and musculoskeletal system. Not to mention it has profound effects on the way the circadian rhythm operates, something to be wary of for the insomniacs.
In a world full of people looking for quick results, overtraining is a rather sensitive topic. Imagine being face to face with a driven athlete and having to find a way to explain how it is not in their best interest to train 50 hours a week. Pattern overload is such a ubiquitous topic, with two sides to the spectrum. For one, many bodybuilders and performance athletes will be the ones who have had the run in with CNS fatigue. In a competitive atmosphere, it may seem the only way to get ahead is by training more hours than the next guy, which unfortunately is not the case. One must learn how to analyze their daily movements and training patterns as well as the specific movement demand of their sport. Then and only then can you categorize and implement various training methods to a specific program for optimal outcome.
For example, if a baseball player who is primarily playing their game in the transverse (rotational movement) and sagittal (flexion-extension) planes, would it make sense to continue training in the same exact mannerism throughout a program? The human body reacts to imposed demands. When adding numerous variables such as adding a medicine ball loaded rotational throw or a band loaded twist (loaded rotation), the athlete is creating a new way of performing the same movement, however this time in a more efficient manner because the body is now handling an external load as opposed to the body in a solitary state such as when swinging a bat or the rotation of the pelvis while running the baseline (unloaded). The athlete may also want to focus on submaximal efforts and dynamic stretches such as hip decoupling and time under tension hip abduction/adduction to keep the program as volatile as possible. Introducing various patterns stems away from pattern overload and promotes a better moving human.
For the rest of the population, one must understand the amount of time put into the craft of the athlete that they have eventually become able to sustain short periods of CNS fatigue, without the long term detriments to their performance or health. For the general population or those who are looking to enhance their performance, you must understand how your system moves as a whole and the various planes the body must move through with load or without load to be a fully functional being. Be sure you are taking into account the various stressors on your body and accommodate your training on a daily basis upon a few things as follows.
Take into account your state of mind, how much stress you had to put up with throughout the day and any other various factor that may occur to you as a potential stressor. If you are just beginning a program and are already pushing to exertion with a mix of your boss pressuring you to fill your quota within the next 24 hours, program adherence will significantly diminish.
TIP: Getting your workout done before work or first thing in the morning will allow you to enter your routine with a clean slate! Plus, it promotes for better cognitive function!
2. Daily movement patterns
So you’re sitting in the office for 8 hours of your day while in heels or elevated heel shoes. It wouldn’t necessarily make much sense if you were to go straight into loaded squats without proper myofascial release (Lengthening of shortened muscles to original state) as doing so would be contributing to pattern overload.
Tip: Try moving in a plane of motion you would not normally, such as a transverse (rotational) unloaded squat or a trx squat (after Self-Myofascial Release), then progressing to a load upon activation of hip to lower extremity synergy.
You’ve drunk two cups of water and consumed a fruit and an egg and expect to get a stellar workout in after work? With adequate hydration out of the equation, you are already setting yourself up for a world of hurt such as being more prone to cramps, early onset fatigue, decreased mental acuity. Lack of food, as well as micro and macronutrients, will leave you feeling very unenthused and lethargic. Set yourself up nicely to perform well!
Tip: Always, always, always hydrate prior and during training. Depending on your goal you can exercise in a fasted state (If early in the morning) or later upon adequate nutrient consumption.
Not everyone is able to train like an athlete! At least not initially. Hell, you learn the basis of functional movement, incorporate some weights and stretches in a progressive manner and you can be the most built, nimble being there was. A premise I stand by to this day is that you must gradually work towards your goal by setting much smaller, realistic ones. One goal leaves much room for discouragement along the journey, but if you’re conquering shit day by day, how could you ever want to quit?? Set realistic purposes of action, take into consideration your daily movement patterns and activities to avoid pattern overload and CNS fatigue.