Overreaching

Nothing feels better than going to bed after a productive day and a hard WOD.  And you are starting to get good at this CrossFit stuff, so you are coming in more and more often to get your workout in.  But after going hard for a while, you find yourself not able to fall asleep.  And even when you do sleep, you still feel tired.  You start getting headaches throughout the day, and despite your attention to your nutrition, you feel consistently drained and your performance suddenly drops.  What is happening?  Chances are, you are overreaching.

Overreaching (referred to as "overtraining" in more significant doses) is inevitable for athletes who don't take time to recover properly between workouts.  How will you know if you are overtraining or overreaching?  You can feel the effects of both of these conditions physically, psychologically and in your workout performance.

Physically:

  • Increased resting heart rate
  • Decreased muscular strength
  • Chronic muscle soreness
  • Increased injury rate
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Decreased appetite
  • Frequent minor infections/colds
     

Psychologically:

  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Loss of motivation/enthusiasm
     

Performance:

  • Decreased time for onset of fatigue
  • Decreased work capacity
  • Inability to complete workouts
  • Delayed recovery
     

So how do you reverse the effects?  Take time to recover!  Recovery between workouts is important, but when you are overtrained, more time is necessary to allow your body to recuperate.  With mild overtraining, a short period of rest and recovery – two weeks or less should be sufficient.  During your recovery time, make sure to pay close attention to keep yourself properly hydrated and well nourished.  You should also treat yourself to a sports massage if your budget allows.

The bottom line is recovery is an essential part of any workout regimen - professional, elite, or novice.  Make sure you are getting yours too.

DOMS

Does this sound like you?

"How do you feel after WODding this morning?" "Actually I feel fine.... Maybe I didn't deadlift enough..."

When starting CrossFit, one experiences great soreness, but partnered with the consistent gains of a new athlete. So, commonly, one associates one with the other. Soreness becomes the gold star of hard work well done and the sign of personal progress. But as the body adapts to the demands of a new training style, soreness becomes less intense or less frequent. This is often mistaken for a sign of not having done enough, trained hard enough. This mentality, revering the inability to walk comfortably up stairs or get up from your toilet seat, is misdirected.

Soreness, both DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), as well as the temporary diffuse "burn" you feel after a set of an exercise, in small doses are signs progress - they are signs of microscopic tears in your muscles that will lead to an adaptive healing process leaving you stronger. But the DOMS pain sensation is not necessary to gaining strength... so not feeling soreness does not mean you didn't do necessary work that will lead to future gains. On the other side of the equation, if you can't function (e.g. can barely lift your arms to put your shirt on or you shower like a dirty T-Rex) it is a sign of severe DOMS. Extreme DOMS is not a sign of bigger gains. Instead it limits your ability to train, function, and if not dealt with properly, can serve as a precursor to injury.

It is true - a some soreness on occasion is a good thing. But it is not a necessity, nor should it be the goal. If you do experience DOMS, remember to address it - don't take the day off, but instead do light movements with the muscle group and foam/lacrosse roll as necessary.

Food for Thought: The Recovery Cycle -- Master the Invisible Side of Training

A worthwhile read from Breaking Muscle...

There are two common problems when it comes to recovery and regeneration in training. The first is that it’s often overlooked in the overall training process, and the second is that the majority will try the sexy quick fixes over thinking about the long-term training picture. It would appear we’ve learnt very little since Mel Siff’s Supertraining hit the bookshelves thirty years ago and definitively addressed the recovery process.

Restoration is an integral part of overall training and practice...it must be applied with the short-term and long-term goals constantly in mind.   - Mel Siff.1

Why do I think we continue to overlook recovery and make such a mess of what is one of the simplest training principles? Ignorance. Ignorance is why there are so many gym goers, fitness enthusiasts, and athletes are burying themselves on a daily basis in the gym and not simply reaping the performance benefits they are chasing. They are ignorant of the invisible side of training: the adaptations that take place the other 23 hours of the day they are not in the gym. You can't take a good selfie of yourself sleeping or walking the dog, so no one appears to be doing it.

If you really want to get #Gainz from your programme, you need to forget about all the fancy stuff that's in the media. It’s time to look at the fundamentals of recovery and regeneration that are based on scientific principles.

The Recovery Cycle

In the early 2000s, images of athletes like Paula Radcliffe in ice baths were everywhere, and anecdotal reports of sports teams using complicated heart and brain pattern technology and cryotherapy chambers emerged daily. Recovery and regeneration was catapulted into the forefront of coaches' and athletes' minds. But with the initial wave of interest came a huge amount of confusion. In 2005, I sat down with a colleague at the English Institute of Sport and attempted to create a simple, logical framework for the application of recovery and regeneration strategies. The Recovery Pyramid was our answer to what had become the wild west of training.

The Recovery Cycle is the first level of recovery strategies from that pyramid.

therecoverycycle.jpg

1. Body Management with Passive and Active Rest: Make sure you’re implementing both passive and active rest into your training programme. Forms of passive rest include reading, listening to music, and watching a film. Active rest includes walking, cross training, and flexibility training and is also beneficial to overall recovery. Massage has many physiological and psychological benefits, and a proper post training cooldown incorporating flexibility and mobility is a great way to recover physically and mentally from training and competition.

2. Refuel and Rehydrate with Decent Nutrition: Nutrition is one of the cornerstones of a comprehensive recovery strategy and can be strategically used to optimise training and performance. A solid approach to refueling and rehydrating will have a positive impact on your response to exercise in terms of hormone control and muscle function.

Stop worrying about pre, during, and post workout nutrition. Get the basics right first: eat regularly, go easy on sugars and processed food, incorporate lots of fruits and vegetables, and drink plenty of water.

3. Sleep: Sleep is a basic requirement for human health. Studies have shown that as little as 30-36 hours of sleep deprivation can result in a loss of performance2 - and those hours don’t all have to occur at the same time. Hours of lost sleep can gather over a period of time and negatively impact training performance.

Sleep is one of the most important forms of rest by providing time for the body to adapt to the physical and mental demands of training, and simply increasing your total hours of sleep each night can positively affect your performance.3

Forget Trends and Focus On The Basics

All the nonsense around recovery needs to stop. We need something simple. We need the Recovery Cycle. In more recent months I’ve seen a second coming of overcomplicated recovery strategies, thanks to the success of a team in the English Premier League called Leicester City. Numerous column inches have been given over to the secrets of their success, and every recovery intervention from cryotherapy to beetroot juice has been touted as Leicester's secret weapon. Now every man and his dog wants to drink purple shakes whilst being slowly frozen.

No. It's time to get back to basics. Recovery and regeneration are the key components of an integrated performance conditioning programme, but we need to focus on fundamentals and not the latest trend. I'll leave you with a simple insight from Professor Damien Hughes to consider in your own training.

“Formula 1, the fastest sport on earth, is won by those who learn how to take pit stops most effectively. The same principles apply to humans.”4

Mini Series: Everything You Need to Know About Recovering - Food

The following is such an important topic that I am breaking it up for you in digestible bites.  Welcome back to a mini series created from the article published in Juggernaut Training Systems.  Click here to see last week's intro installment.

Fatigue Reduction Methods that Work Well:

The fatigue reduction modalities presented in this section are the ones that almost certainly work and work well. They were chosen because they have three distinct advantages in their favor:

– They have strong support in the peer-reviewed literature.

– They logically align with our greater understanding of sport science and physiology.

– They have been used and sworn by in the real world for a long time and by a diverse group of athletes and gym rats alike.

When you’ve got all three, you know you’re on to something that really works. And our first – and easily most powerful – fatigue reducer:

2 Food

Second to sleep, the most powerful fatigue fighter is food. Unlike with sleep, where getting enough is the ticket, with food, the more the better (to a point). The most profound fatigue reduction comes from a hypercaloric diet. If more calories are taken in than expended and weight is being gained, fatigue management becomes much more effective than otherwise. You’re able to survive and recover from training that seemed at the time to be near-impossible, ready to repeat it all merely several high-calorie days later.

The less food you eat, the more difficult fatigue management becomes. While a properly balanced isocaloric (maintenance) diet can definitely help with recovery, the further calories dip below maintenance, the more profoundly fatigue has a tendency to accumulate. With dieting, this is just fact of life and must be accepted. During fat loss dieting, that is precisely why making sure the other fatigue fighters like proper training management and sleep are in order. One of the most powerful – food – is no longer available in then needed quantities.

The most profound fatigue reduction comes from a hypercaloric diet.

Calories are king when it comes to fatigue, but macronutrients matter too. And the most important of them? CARBS. That’s right, protein is not in its customary first place ranking this time. While protein builds and preserves muscle, carbs have a more profound effect on cumulative fatigue, mostly through their effects on muscle glycogen reserves. Low muscle glycogen levels literally turn up AMPk and other catabolic and fatigue-related cellular machinery. Low glycogen levels are in fact one of the most powerful single contributors to cumulative fatigue itself. Eating enough carbs to replete glycogen can go a long way in fighting fatigue. Additionally, ingested carbs have a tendency to lower cortisol levels, which is a great added benefit. While about 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight per day is a good start, carb recommendations are made by training and activity volumes:

– 1g per pound per day for light or off days (sets of 3-5 reps, typical peaking training for powerlifting)

– 2g per pound per day for moderate-hard days (sets of 5-10, typical powerlifting and bodybuilding training)

-3g per pound per day for super high volume days including multiple hard workouts per day (multi-sport, endurance sport, and CrossFit athletes at various phases)

You can go lower than these guidelines, especially when fat loss is the goal, but cutting carbs will eventually have negative effects on fatigue, so cut the least you can to still get the results you need.

Fats are important for various hormone production and thus have an effect on fatigue, though much more subtle. Generally, keeping essential fats above 10% in grams of your bodyweight in pounds is a good idea. Thus, if a 200lb individual chronically dips below 20g per day, this may cause more unwanted fatigue than necessary.

How are you at meal time?  Tune in next week to follow up with another underestimated fatigue reducer: Sleep.  Got questions?  Talk to your coach about your recovery routine.

Mini Series: Everything You Need to Know About Recovering - Sleep

The following is such an important topic that I am breaking it up for you in digestible bites.  Welcome back to a mini series created from the article published in Juggernaut Training Systems.  Click here to see last week's intro installment.

Fatigue Reduction Methods that Work Well:

The fatigue reduction modalities presented in this section are the ones that almost certainly work and work well. They were chosen because they have three distinct advantages in their favor:

– They have strong support in the peer-reviewed literature.

– They logically align with our greater understanding of sport science and physiology.

– They have been used and sworn by in the real world for a long time and by a diverse group of athletes and gym rats alike.

When you’ve got all three, you know you’re on to something that really works. And our first – and easily most powerful – fatigue reducer:

1) Sleep

Sleep is such a powerful fatigue fighter that it’s likely more effective than all of the other items on this list combined. In fact, if insufficient sleep is a chronic occurrence, it comes close to making even the best efforts on all other fatigue fighting lines null and void. Curiously, a likely major function of sleep in animals (including humans) is precisely to reduce fatigue. Yeah, you might be OK without that massage post-workout, but sleep is not optional.

Going chronically without needed sleep leads to all sorts of fun effects, including performance losses, technique execution difficulties, and profound elevations of cortisol and decreases in testosterone. Going without sleep has also been shown to do two things that are especially interesting: cause fat gain and later, weight loss (if depravation gets bad enough). Fat gain combined with weight loss is literally the fastest way to lose muscle. It’s a REALLY bad deal.

OK fine, sleep is good, no sleep is bad. Got it. What about some practical recommendations? How much is enough? Well, the average trainee seems to need about eight hours of quality sleep per night. But that doesn’t mean much, because you might not be the average trainee. We ALL know that guy who sleeps five hours a night and recovers just fine! Ronnie Coleman was supposedly in this unique group of athletes. So what’s the deal?

It seems that the best recommendation for sleep is: Get enough FOR YOU. Your training partner might need six hours of sleep, and your coach might need 10, but the only thing you need is enough sleep for your own physiological needs. How do you know you’re getting enough? The truth is: Unless you’re a little kid, you know.

If you wake up tired and get sleepy during the day all the time, you’re not getting enough quality sleep. If you feel A-OK without massive doses of stimulants, you’re likely fine. It’s always good to experiment with a bit more sleep if you’re OK to see if there is a benefit, but generally, it’s that simple. And the thing is, almost everyone KNOWS when they are sleep deprived. They know, but they say “my job is demanding” or “the stress keeps me from sleeping,” or they just love late-night TV and can’t quit the habit. And it’s OK to be sleep deprived now and again, but if it’s a chronic thing, it will have a large impact on your training results. That’s for sure.

Is it all right to party super late a couple of weekends a month? Of course! But if you’re under-sleeping five days per week, you might benefit from making sure you get the sleep you need … on a REGULAR basis.

How are you at lights out?  Tune in next week to follow up with another underestimated fatigue reducer: Sleep.  Got questions?  Talk to your coach about your recovery routine.

Mini Series: Everything You Need to Know About Recovering - Overview

The following is such an important topic that I am breaking it up for you in digestible bites.  (That's right, I appreciate your limited time and attention span) Welcome to a mini series created from the article published in Juggernaut Training Systems.

In order for training to be effective, an overload must be presented. Training must be chronically harder, longer, and more demanding in some way as it progresses within months, years, and even at the career level. But while hard training is a must, it comes with one major side effect: cumulative fatigue.

Rather than just being synonymous with getting tired and out of breath after training, cumulative fatigue is composed of the additive effect of the little depletions, disruptions, and microtears that don’t heal 100% with each week of training. [...]

In order for productive training to continue, fatigue must be managed by not getting too high too often, and being brought down when it does.[...] Managing your fatigue by non-training mediators can meaningfully improve performance and extend the length of time you actually spend training and progressing versus just trying to recover so you can even train at all.

On the other end of the spectrum, making poor choices in the non-training realm can not only prohibit a recovery advantage, but it can downright halt training progress. 

Got your attention?  Tune in next week to follow up with the first and most powerful fatigue reducer: Sleep.  Got questions?  Talk to your coach about your recovery routine.