Over training. It’s a bit like the Loch Ness Monster, paranormal activity, or Big Foot. We’ve all heard about it before. There are theories as to whether or not it exists. But like the majority of the population’s take on ‘Ole Nessy, I just don’t think it exists.
I’ll pause here for a second as I hear jimmies being rustled.
Okay, look it probably does exist when you look at your extremely high level, pro and Olympic athletes, but I’m not referring to them. I’m talking about regular Joe’s like you and me. A basic physio 101 course is enough to put it to rest, really. We can adapt like you wouldn’t believe to the external stressors that are put on our bodies. Think about it this way. Let’s say you decide to quit your job and become a garbage man. Now, these days a lot of the trucks are fully automated and you don’t have to physically haul the bags in like the old days, so for the sake of this scenario the year is 1996. Anywho, you finish up your first day on the job. The next morning you wake up and….. Whoa! Holy shit you’re sore! Muscles that you didn’t know existed are screaming at you. But guess what, you’ve got to get your ass out of bed anyways and get to work. Can’t call in to the boss on the second day because you’re sore. You just get back to it and suck it up. And you’re probably sore most mornings for about a week or so, but then you adapt and it becomes no big deal.
So if you look at the “total volume” of weight being moved around by the garbage man over the course of the day, some experts would say that he needs at least 24-48 hours of rest in between his shifts or else he’ll run the risk of over training. Really? He’s performing the same move over and over and over for hours on end and he’s just fine. We go to the gym 3-4 times a week or maybe go out and run 3-4 times per week (really just insert whatever it is you do here) and yet if we don’t take time off in between we’ll wind up injured and over trained. I’m just not buying it, man. This, however, is NOT to say that performance may decrease and burnout will likely increase, but I’m saying that you won’t necessarily be over trained assuming your diet is on point and you are getting 7-9 hours or more) of restful sleep at night.
So yes, I understand that exercise merely provides the stimulus for which our bodies can adapt and improve from. But what is the cutoff? How much is too much? And does that change as we continue to become more and more trained? I don’t have the answers to those questions, but I just am having a hard time buying into the whole over training thing.
So this brings me to “de-load” days. The idea behind these is that you build up reps, sets, weights, miles, etc. over a period of time (e.g. 3 weeks) and then you cut way back on those reps, sets, weights, miles, etc. for a week before returning back to the building stage. The idea of this is to give the body ample rest and to prevent over training. And I’m not necessarily knocking it in practice because I certainly believe that it can be highly beneficial. My problem with it is the way we just plug them in to programs. I’ve found that life is really good at providing it’s own stimulus for a de-load week. You get sick. You travel. You’re just not on your A game. Whatever the reason, it’s my personal belief to not predetermine your de-load weeks or rest days. And another aspect of it to consider is that let’s say you are heading into a de-load week and are told to decrease your load by 30%. BUT… you feel freaking awesome! I say screw the program and kill that session. Again, there will be days when you aren’t on a de-load and you feel like pure doo doo butter and will have a crappy session with weights closely resembling that -30% anyways.
So in summary, does over training exist? Yes and no I think. Should it be at least considered? Absolutely. Should de-load weeks be predetermined ahead of time? I think 99% of the time the answer is no. Of course there are always exceptions to the rule, but for us average folk, I say no.