Jocelyn On Overtraining


Vince and Mona get some air time.

Vince and Mona get some air time.



Jocelyn lays the smack down about overtraining.  Take heed, folks.

Monday, 5/18/09… REST.  This is what I wrote in my CrossFit WOD journal today.   It was midday when I finally decided to listen to my body and take an extra rest day.  This was only decided when I took the short flight of stairs up to the office to file some papers and I could barely lift one foot above the other.  It was like I was wearing a pair of those lame jazzercise ankle weights.  A part of me panics a little because the Games are only 54 days away and I worry that I won’t be ready in time if I take 2 whole days off in a row. 

Here’s the sick part:  Yesterday’s “REST” day looks like this in my journal:

Sunday, 5/17/09

Front Squat/Back Squat (supersets)







25 GHD Sit Ups

25 Back Ext

I note that, although I did 36 total squats, that the intensity wasn’t really there (because I was tired) and that I did not do a metcon or really get my heart pumping, and therefore it might as well be considered a rest day. 

Does this sound familiar to anyone?

Listen, even as a coach who knows better, and as a coach who has had some serious conversations with quite a few of you, it can happen.  Overtraining.  It is common in CrossFit.  It is common even here at the box.  And it can be serious. 

Having said that, I just want to make one thing clear to those of you at the box who are obsessed about your numbers on the board, or who are pushing yourself extra hard just to be extra fit in general.  TOO MUCH TRAINING CAN AND WILL LEAD TO A DECLINE IN PERFORMANCE.  It is a condition called, you guessed it, Overtraining Syndrome. 

According to Curtin School of Physiotherapy there are two types of overtraining–Overreaching and Overtraining (staleness).  Overreaching is the first phase of Overtraining.  It consists of abnormal muscle soreness as a result of not allowing enough recovery time between workouts.  It will usually happen after several days of hard training and if you aren’t too stubborn to recognize it, it is fairly easy to reverse with a day’s rest and some extra hydration. 

Overtraining (also called staleness) occurs when an athlete completely ignores the signs of Overreaching (insert the sound of me clearing my throat at all of you over-trainers out there) and continues to train.  Many of us athletes think that if we did not beat our Jackie time on a given day, or did not break our previous deadlift PR, that this reflects poor performance and thus signals the need for even harder training.  So the next day, we might come in and do TWO workouts to push ourselves further.  Unfortunately, this only breaks down our bodies more.  It is extremely difficult to recover from Overtraining.  In fact, it can actually require weeks, or worse, months of time off.  And I KNOW none you want to be forced to take that much time off from this wonderful haven of blood, sweat, tears, and Sam yelling in your ear to get your elbows up or Kyle’s black heart programming workouts in which there is a burpee/pullup punishment for having to rest during sets of heavy KB Swings. 

Furthermore, athletes are more susceptible to breakdown and overtraining if there are other stressors present in their lives such as work, school, relationships, kids, etc.  Huh?  Other stressors and responsibilities in life besides CrossFit?  Who woulda thunk?

I want you all to take a good look at this list of Symptoms of Overtraining:  

Training related:

* Unusual muscle soreness after a workout, which persists with continued training.

* Inability to train or compete at a previously manageable levels.

* “Heavy” leg muscles, even at light exercise intensities (walking upstairs, jogging 200m for warm ups)

*Delay in recovery from training.

*Performance plateaus or even declines (again, this is me clearing my throat at a few of you).

*Thoughts of quitting or skipping training sessions.

Lifestyle related:

* Prolonged general fatigue.

* Increase in tension, depression, anger, or confusion.

* Insomnia, inability to relax, or poor quality of sleep.

* No energy, decreased motivation, moodiness.

* Things once enjoyable are no longer.

* A compulsive need to exercise (to make up for poor performance, reach fitness goals, etc).

Health Related:

* Increased incidence of injuries (again, me clearing my throat).
* Increased occurrence of sickness.

* Increased blood pressure and morning pulse (resting heart rate).

* Irregular menstrual cycle or loss of menstrual periods.

*Weight loss, appetite loss (or even a stop in weight loss even though you are training hard with a calorie deficit).

* Constipation or diarrhea.

Spend some time on this list.  Are there even a handful of symptoms that apply to you?  If so maybe you should seriously consider taking an extra rest day or two.  Trust me, I know from experience how hard that is to do.  Even as a coach, when it comes to my own regimen I find myself rationalizing my own overtraining behaviors.  But with less than adequate rest, we will be doing far more harm than good for our bodies and might end up putting ourselves in a position where we are forced to take weeks or even months off from training.  I have a feeling none of us would be happy about that.   One thing for sure, my workout journal entry today will simply say REST. 

If you are interested in more info on overtraining check out this reference.

Please post thoughts to Comments.


Well folks, I gotta do it.

Rest Day

Stretch, hydrate, relax.