Over-Training: Building or Breaking?

As any avid CrossFitter knows, one of the hardest days of the week is the dreaded “rest day”. Depending on your diet plan, this could also mean a reduction in the amount of food you get to eat! So it’s a double whammy, less food AND feeling like a slug due to inactivity.

I used to be a massive proponent of working out as much as possible. Day in and day out, I’d be at the gym. At my peak, I was doing 3 workouts Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, 2 workouts Tuesday and Thursday, and playing tennis and going for a run on Sunday. That’s an impressive 16 workouts plus cross-training EVERY WEEK. I’d continually brag about how much I work-out and how fit I was. I mean, really, who isn’t impressed by someone that can do a workout EVERY DAY for multiple weeks or even an entire year?!?!

A Nap WOD is needed sometimes! 

A Nap WOD is needed sometimes! 

Not only was I working out so much, but I was also eating “better”. I was strict Paleo, never deviating, and I felt fully satiated every day by having lots of protein bars, protein drinks, and the occasional small meal to ensure portion control. I had to have been in the best shape of my life, right? Little did I know that while my cardio and recovery were relatively impressive, I was not properly feeding my body or setting myself up for any significant gains. Sure, my lifts went up a bit and my times went down in benchmark WODs and I believed I was in the best shape of my life.

This “reality” was COMPLETELY shattered within the last 6 months. Having discovered the most important component of any training program, proper dieting/fueling of the body, I have seen the most dramatic changes. I now work-out once any given day though still 6 days a week, making absolutely positive to not do ANY sort of workout/training on the 7th day: a light jog or a tennis match is NOT resting.

Surely, my numbers have decreased and my performance is worse… NOPE!

With this proper regimen, my body has the time it needs to heal, the fuel it needs to build, and the intensity required to see the gains. At a lighter body weight (25lbs lighter), my lifts are identical to where they were at their “peak”. At a leaner build (10% lower body fat), my metcons are vastly improved as compared to my “peak”. Everything has improved and I’m working out approximately 65% less than I was at my “peak”. While my diet is a huge component of this success, over-training will never get you the results you want.

Being active is a great thing! Make sure to find an activity you love and gain a true passion for it so you can continue it for life. But, there is such a thing as excess! The human body is not built to be heavily taxed day-in and day-out. None of us are Wolverine and can heal in an instant (NERD ALERT!). Such a program could very well lead to weight loss/body fat reduction but will almost definitely also lead to muscle mass reduction. Doing so makes us no more fit, just thinner.

Also, be sure to steadily increase activity level. If you normally work-out 2 days a week, don’t suddenly jump to 5 days a week and expect your body to compensate. A steady growth into a more rigorous workout schedule allows your body to more effectively adapt to the strain placed upon it rather than completely shocking your system.

Give your body the proper rest along with the proper fuel to set it up for success!


Coach Dan