“I don’t believe in overtraining. I believe in under-recovery.” – Coach Burgener
I’m writing this on a day I’m skipping lifting and going to Yin yoga instead.
If you’re like me (a perfectionist, a high achiever, a “goal-getter”) you might be thinking, “She’s gone insane.” Or maybe you’re excited, believing if I keep this up you’ve got a chance at beating me in our next lifting meet (good luck, hehe), or both.
This is hard for me to write because I think I’ve been overtraining for years, and only just realized it when I finally slowed down to let a nagging shoulder injury heal. I don’t want you to have to push yourself to that place if you don’t have to.
For four years, I’ve beaten my body with a barbell five-to-six days a week two-to-three hours a day sometimes twice a day (I can probably count on one hand the number of programmed training sessions I’ve missed, and I only skipped if it was because of pneumonia or something).
I’d assault my body to the absolute edge in almost every workout. For two out of the four years I did some kind of max effort lift every session (e.g. find a 5 RM back squat).
Mobility was a means to an end – a way to improve my recovery so I could lift more the next day; perform better at the following meet. It was a method of increasing my range of motion in order to increment the weight on the bar. A pain-reducing practice that would allow me to attack training for one more day.
I weighed and measured food for over two years, only missing a month here and there: it was my process for staying lean and in my most-competitive weight class.
None of this was to love my body. All of it was to hit a new milestone. To win another medal. To establish new limits.
I probably spent 90% of my energy on pushing, striving, achieving.
And 10% is a generous estimate of how much I spent loving, appreciating, and just being: this is real recovery.
And it’s finally caught up to me. I’m over over-training. I’m ready for the minumum dose to provide maximum gainzzz.
I believe everything in life – everything in the Universe – wants to be in balance, and if you’re not creating it in your life something sometime is going to force it upon you. It’s the Unity of Opposites. Yin and yang.
If you don’t take the time to rest, you’re going to get sick or injured and you’ll be forced to rest (if you find yourself constantly striving and then being sidelined with sickness or injury as a pattern, it’s probably the Universe trying to teach you a lesson. I believe that’s why patterns happen in our lives).
You can have success through years of overtraining (I did), but I think it’s going to catch up to you (it has).
So, what am I doing now?
- Only lifting four times a week.
- Stopping doing something if it hurts (sounds basic, right? If you’re like me, it’s not.)
- Practicing yoga (Yin or restorative) at least three times a week.
- Walking, meditating, and taking little breaks throughout my busiest days to do something that actually nourishes me (e.g. reading a chapter in a book, taking a little stroll, doing some deep breathing).
- Practicing gratitude about my body and trying to learn to really love it for the way it looks, what it can do, and even for the way the organs inside operate. I’m using mantras to help (e.g. today’s mantra: “I love my mind because it allows me to recognize the beautiful miracle that is my body.”)
- Training with a coach in person and knows when to tell me to call it a day or to load up the bar and push me.
- Taking time off of tracking macros and learning to listen to, and love, my body even when it’s not shredded and ready for competition in my usual weight categories.
- Taking at least one day a week where I stop striving. Where I take care of myself and go to physio or get a massage. Where I take a bath or read or write whatever I want. Where I don’t look at my emails or have calls with clients.
I believe that overtraining can accumulate from life stress (and not just training stress) and we have to work to establish that balance overall for maximum health, longevity, and happiness.
I’m a believer in pushing limits who’s learning to finally Just. Be. Still.
I’m a steadfast proponent of striving who’s working on believing I’m perfect in this moment right now.
Someday soon I’ll probably go back to training 5-6 times a week. For now I know reestablishing a balance I’ve ignored is what’s important.
As a perfectionist – as a high-achiever coming from a family and society that values hard work – I always believed that if you wanted more results the answer was unmistakably to “work harder.”
I’m not so sure anymore.
By getting to Yin regularly and allowing myself to just be in a pose instead of perfect it I’m increasing not only my ability to hit the hole in my snatches but also my strength in being present when I’m lifting.
By taking time out to rest I’m giving old injuries permission to heal while lowering stress levels so that when I do push my limits in the gym, I can actually do more and recover faster.
I think my coach is giving me that “minimum dose.” I leave the gym feel like my workouts were hard, but rarely like I’ve pushed to the extreme (I still think finding your limits sometimes is important, but I don’t think it should be the norm).
And I’ve been hitting some pretty crazy personal records lately.
And guess what else is cool? I’m happier.
I’m done striving as hard as I once did. It’s time to see what I can do when I learn to just be. It’s time to counterbalance if I want to sustain progress – to actually take the advice I heard at a conference years ago, but had to learn the hard way. I hope you don’t have to learn it the hard way:
Train hard. Recover harder.
“The Universe works in opposites.
Where there is a yin there is a yang.
Where there is positive there is negative.
It’s constantly trying to balance.
This is known as the unity of opposites and can’t be broken.
It occurs in the microscopic level to the universal level.
A constant ebb and flow that is within us and external to us.
But it is unbiased, just has to be balanced.”
– AJ Roberts
If you want help with nutrition, whatever stage of the journey (whether you’ve never tried to lose weight before, and you’re ready to make that commitment to yourself, or whether you’ve tried everything and haven’t gotten results), I have two nutrition programs to serve you. Email me at email@example.com to book a free consultation call.