How much is too much?
This is a question that – as an athlete, runner, player, jumper, lifter, thrower – if you haven’t asked yourself, you’re probably not trying hard enough. An intriguing paradox: the goal is to get as close to bodily failure as possible, but go too far and you’re toast. The consequences of overtraining can be disastrous, but the benefits of pushing hard will take you to the next level. So when do you draw the line?
“You just feel bad. The spark is gone.” Dr. William Roberts, an athlete training specialist at the University of Minnesota, made his analysis on runners overtraining in comments to the New York Times. That same piece featured Dr. Steven Keteyian, who mentioned that, “...it doesn’t happen over a two-week period of time...talk to me when you are running 50 miles a week.”
Overtraining for distance running doesn’t have a specific mileage threshold, but it’s unlikely to have a legitimate effect on “recreational” runners and joggers. Unfortunately, it’s tough to diagnose or plan for overtraining. It’s usually only determinable by symptoms such as high resting heart rate, extreme muscle weakness and poor coordination. Symptoms of anemia and low iron counts are also typical of all overtrained athletes.
Training to failure has always been a hot button in the weights arena. In a world unfairly characterized by masculinity and arrogance, saying “enough is enough” is highly looked down upon. However, weightlifting guru and expert strongman, Jason Ferrugia might have other ideas.
In his critically acclaimed blog, Ferrugia claims that “If I had to pick one thing that holds people back more than anything else it would probably be training to failure.” Ferrugia, who has been featured in training-related source from ESPN to Men’s Health to Muscle and Fitness, went on to explain “those who get it and those who don’t.” The successful weight trainers “make continual progress and never get hurt” because they’re committed to using picturesque form and, you guessed it, not working to failure.
Ferrugia then addressed several key ways to push bigger weights without pushing yourself into injuries and exhaustion. First, perform every rep 100%. Each rep should be done with power, not in a “slow, grinding” fashion. Warm up sets should be performed with the same intensity and focus as a one-rep max. Second, there is no such thing as “light.” Keep your core engaged and your muscles active at all times. Ferrugia claims that he’s seen more injuries on lighter weights because lifters tend to get sloppy if they think the weight is easy. And finally, don’t skip out on reps. Drop the weight down and get your numbers in.
TRAIN SMARTER, NOT HARDER
Duke cardiologist, Dr. William Kraus, may have explained overtraining the best when describing the condition of his own son — a competitive distance runner. “Training a little bit beyond your capabilities is the only way to get better,” Dr. Kraus said. “But you have to balance that with rest and recovery. It’s a fine line. Where is that edge and how do you get as close as possible without going over it?”
Know your limits. Work for goals. Embrace rest.