Avoid Overtraining

This entry is part 8 of 11 in the series Training Programs

A strategy to avoid the overtraining syndrome: Train for 3 weeks in a row, then take a week off!

For decades now, I’ve been creating workout plans. For every one that was good enough to publish at this site, I have created at least a dozen that were helpful, but never got written up. What they all had in common was that, somewhere around 6 weeks, I invariably had to stop.

The reason for stopping was the devil of the determined athlete: Overtraining Syndrome.

The overtraining syndrome is characterized by fatigue, and a state of profound ennui, where nothing at all seems worthwhile. Why do this? Why do that? No answer ever seems good enough. Why look for an answer? That seems hopeless, too.

What’s going on, when you reach that profound state of malaise, is that your body has been so busy recovering from you workouts, that your internal systems are effectively running on empty. In other words, you’ve reached a point of systemic fatigue. No one thing hurts all that much, but your body has been so busy recovering from one effort after another that it doesn’t have enough energy left to do any more! So you experience a hopeless feeling that is nature’s way of saying, “Lay down, and get some rest.”

If you’ve read the 2-3-5, 7-11 Weight Training Program, you know how to dramatically change your body shape, by building muscle. The problem, of course, is that the program’s very effectiveness makes it all the more likely that you will arrive at the point of maximum fatigue. But one of the sneaky things about that program is that it does not induce muscle soreness. Without sore, aching muscles telling you to get some rest, you’re all the more likely to slide into the systemic fatigue that is the hallmark of overtraining.

And once you get to point, the problem is that you have to stop — and when you do, you’re liable to stop for a very long time! Several weeks, at least. Several months, even. I know that I have, on more than one occasion. So, while the good I did while working out wasn’t completely undone, it did slow things down, in general. And if I took too long to get back to my workouts then, yes, things did get thrown into reverse. And if the neglect stretches to years, the result is a body shape one might expect.

So the overtraining syndrome, at its worst, is serious problem. I call that massive overtraining. But long before you reach that point, warning signs appear. As I was doing my latest Short, 7-Day Workout Plan, I ran into it again — and was off again, for several weeks. But when I got back to it this time, I went on the alert, looking for those warning signs.

Here’s what I found:

  1. Week One or Two: You begin experiencing a bit of unexpected clumsiness. You find yourself dropping things unexpectedly, or find that you just “miss the mark” by a fraction — so instead of placing that ketchup bottle on the edge of the counter, maybe it is one the edge by just enough to maybe fall. Or maybe you run into the door frame with your shoulder, because you were just slightly off balance, and misjudged the distance.
    The good news is that you can rejoice in that particular warning sign. It means that your body is adapting to it’s new musculature, and your new circuits aren’t quite set up, as yet. So that particular sign means that you are growing, and your body shape is changing. (This is a good time to ignore the scales, too. Since muscle weighs more than fat, the scales are telling you that you put on a couple of pounds. But if you find a picture that was taken a while ago, you’ll see that you look thinner!)
  2. End of Week Three: You get up in the morning, and you should feel rested, but you don’t, really. And it’s hard to get started. In my case, I found myself sitting at the computer, with no ideas in my head. I didn’t really want to write — which, in general, is a pretty unusual thing!

This was the early warning sign I was looking for! I know from past experience that it is entirely possible to push through that feeling, and keep on doing so for another couple of weeks. That problem with that strategy is that you eventually reach a point where you’re forced to stop. And when you do, you’ll stopping for a long time!

So my strategy at the moment is this:

Don’t wait for massive overtraining at six weeks.
Take a planned vacation after three!

The nice thing about that program is every workout session lasts a month! And if you have one of those months with 5 weeks in it, then by all means take an extra few days to rest!

You don’t need to worry about waiting until next month to get started, either. Get started now, and keep taking the 4th week off. Eventually, those 5-week months will add up, and it will turn out that you’re starting a sequence near the beginning of a month. When that happens, start taking the extra days off at the end of the month. You’re due!

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    1. Your Body NEEDS Weight Training | Treelight.com April 18, 2017 (2:41 pm)

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    3. A Short, 7-Day Workout Plan | Treelight.com April 18, 2017 (1:40 pm)

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