What is Overtraining?

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Recovery is one of the key components to high performance in sports but is rarely appreciated by most athletes ranging from the weekend shuffler to the elite level endurance athlete. Conventional wisdom would suggest that the road to success is hard workouts, and the more the better.

A highly motivated athlete, no matter how elite, who has placed recovery on the back burner, will soon enough experience total fatigue. Waking up in the morning tired, unable to complete the easiest of training sessions. This can go on for days, weeks or even months. You’re overtrained.

How Overtraining can occur
Below is a list of just some of the reasons an athlete could become overtrained:

  • Inadequate recovery between training sessions;
  • Too much high intensity training, typically for too long;
  • Sudden drastic increases in distance, length, or intensity of exercise routine;
  • Daily intense weightlifting;
  • High volumes of endurance training;
  • No vacations, breaks, or off-seasons;
  • For athletes, excessive competition at high levels (i.e. trying to win every race);
  • Inadequate nutrition, typically in the form of caloric and carbohydrate/fat restriction;
  • Insufficient sleep;
  • High amounts of stress and anxiety.

Common Symptoms of Overtraining
There are many symptoms of overtraining, ranging from physiological to biochemical or even a compromised immune system. Here are some of the more common signs and symptoms of overtraining.

Physiological and Psychological

  • Decreased performance;
  • Decreased strength;
  • Decreased work capacity;
  • Changes in heart rate at rest, exercise and recovery;
  • Increased frequency of breathing;
  • Insomnia;
  • Loss of appetite;
  • Increased aches and pains;
  • Chronic fatigue;
  • Depression;
  • Apathy;
  • Decreased self-esteem;
  • Difficulty concentrating;
  • Irritability.

Immunological

  • Susceptibility to illness;
  • Slow healing of minor scratches;
  • Swollen lymph nodes.

Biochemical

  • Negative nitrogen balance;
  • Flat glucose tolerance curves;
  • Reduced muscle glycogen concentration;
  • Decreased hemoglobin;
  • Decreased iron serum;
  • Mineral depletion;
  • Elevated cortisol levels;
  • Low free testosterone.

Overcoming Overtraining
The only way to overcome overtraining is adequate rest along with sound nutrition. Overtraining usually results from training mistakes, most commonly is an imbalance between stress and rest. This usually occurs as an athlete suddenly increases their training workload in either volume or intensity, sometimes both.

Overtraining can be avoided by following a long-term, structured training program that has scheduled rest and recovery days. A reduction in workload for a single training week, every 6-8 weeks is also very beneficial. Taking the time out to reduce both mental and physical stressors of the modern world can help with recovery.

Training programs should be unique to the individual athlete, taking into consideration, age, experience, susceptibility to illness and injury, along with any personal goals.

An introduction into kettlebell training

What is a kettlebell?

It’s a cannonball with a handle. It’s an extreme handheld gym. It’s a great strength and conditioning tool.

The kettlebell can deliver high level all-around fitness. Functional strength. Staying power. Flexibility and mobility. Fat loss without the dishonor of an aerobics class. Kettlebells can be used virtually anywhere.

Kettlebells are traditionally measured in poods. An old Russian unit of measure, a single pood weighs 16 kilograms (kg).

The general rule of thumb is that men should start with a 16 kg kettlebell. An experienced athlete can start with a 24 kg kettlebell.

For women, it is suggested that they start with an 8 kg kettlebell and 12 kg if they’re an experienced athlete.

Kettlebell safety 101
Below is a short list of rules on how to use a kettlebell safely as stated in the book Enter the Kettlebell written by kettlebell master trainer Pavel Tsatsouline.

  • Check with you doctor before you start training;
  • Always be aware of your surroundings;
  • Wear flat shoes;
  • Never, never contest for space with a kettlebell;
  • Practice all safety measures at all times;
  • Keep moving once your heart rate is high;
  • Build up your training load gradually using common sense, and always listen to your body;
  • Instruction can not cover all contingencies, and there is no substitute for good judgement.

The kettlebell sumo deadlift
The first movement to master is the kettlebell sumo deadlift. This movement requires the athlete to safely pick up the kettlebell from the floor.

Taking a comfortable stance, with feet slightly turned out. Sit back as you would in a high chair, and pick up the kettlebell with both hands by extending your hips and knees.

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The checklist:

  • Your arms are straight; the legs are doing all the lifting.
  • Your knees are pointing in the same direction as your slightly turned-out feet.
  • Your heels are planted. You are sitting back, rather than dipping down or bending forward.
  • Your back stays straight throughout. Don’t confuse “straight” with “vertical”! “Straight” in this context means “not rounded.”
  • You are looking straight ahead, not up or down, at all times.

Once you have mastered this simple and functional movement you will be ready to progress on to more advance kettlebell movements such as:

  • The kettlebell swing;
  • The kettlebell get-up;
  • The kettlebell snatch.

I have personally used kettlebells with great success over the years and can attribute a large part of my own physical conditioning to the kettlebell.

The Burpee: the ultimate conditioning tool

The burpee is a staple in many conditioning routines, and for good reason. This simple exercise can be done almost anywhere, by almost anyone.

To perform a Burpee:

  • Begin in a squat position with hands on the floor in front of you.
  • Kick your feet back, while simultaneously lowering yourself into the bottom portion of a pushup. Your arms will not be extended.
  • Immediately return your feet to the squat position, while simultaneously pushing “up” with your arms. You will perform a pushup as you return your feet to the squat position.
  • Leap up as high as possible from the squat position. Repeat, moving as fast as possible.

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Burpee benefits
Some of the benefits of adding burpees to your workout routine:

  • Strength;
  • Total body conditioning;
  • Improved anaerobic capacity;
  • Improved body composition; and
  • Weight loss.

It’s not a Squat Thrust
At first glance, you may associate the burpee with a traditional squat thrust. Squat Thrusts are typically performed without the vertical jump. With a squat thrust, you simply “stand up” before returning to the squat position. Squat thrusts are much easier than explosive burpees.

Variations
There are many variations to performing burpees. Some will lower the intensity, while others will increase it. They include:

  • Burpees without a push-up;
  • Dumbell Burpees;
  • Weighted Vest Burpees; and
  • Medicine Ball Burpees.

With or without weighted resistance (dumbbells, vests, medicine balls, etc.), a regular dose of burpee conditioning will provide immediate, and drastic improvements in your physical fitness.

Burpee Intervals
Burpee Intervals are one of the best conditioning drills. Here is one of my favorite Burpee conditioning workouts from Infinite Intensity by Ross Enamait.

Begin with 30 seconds of Burpees, and immediately follow with 30 seconds of shadow boxing. Continue this pattern for a full 2 or 3-minute round.

The Round

  • 30 sec x Burpees;
  • 30 sec x shadow boxing.

Beginners

  • 4 x 2-minute rounds with 1 minute of rest between rounds.

Intermediate

  • 6 x 2-minute rounds with 1 minute of rest between rounds; or
  • 4 x 3-minute rounds with 1 minute of rest between rounds.

Advanced

  • 6 x 3-minute rounds with 1 minute of rest between rounds.

Master

  • 6 x 3-minute rounds with 30 seconds of rest between rounds.

Coconut Oil Coffee: optimizing overall performance

There’s just something about a morning coffee/espresso that gives a higher enjoyability in which to start the day.

Adding coconut oil to your morning coffee will make you feel energized, alert and focused without the traditional coffee crash. Coconut oil also supports healthy body fat metabolism and can help increase muscle mass.

Coconut oil is mostly made up of the medium-chain triglyceride (MCT), lauric acid (about 45-50%). Some advantages of MCT’s include:

  • MCTs are absorbed quickly by the body (digestion) and can be used for immediate energy;
  • MCTs enhance ketone production which have therapeutic (energy/cognitive) and nitrogen retention (protein sparing) advantages;
  • MCTs have been shown to boost immune function;
  • MCT rich diets have been shown to increase metabolic rates; and
  • MCT rich diets shown to better reduce hunger/suppress appetite.

The potential to not only have more immediate and stable energy but also control hunger/appetite better (reducing rebound eating tendencies), makes it a no brainer for a lasting lean lifestyle plan.

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Coconut Oil Coffee
Just 3 easy steps to enjoy this energy boosting drink:

  • Put your coconut oil in a cup (1-2 tablespoons);
  • Add in your hot coffee or espresso (tea is also an option);
  • Stir and enjoy.

For variation you can also add collagen and some cinnamon, or to make the infamous Bulletproof Coffee you can add some grass-fed butter!

Pre-workout Coffee
Why coffee before training? Caffeine, of course. Caffeine triggers the muscles to start using fat as an energy source rather than carbohydrate sugars. Some of the other benefits of coffee taken pre-workout include:

  • Increased athletic endurance performance;
  • Increased strength and power performance;
  • Reduced perceived exertion level.

As little as 3-5 milligrams of caffeine (per kilo of body weight) is all that is required. For most people, that is roughly 1-2 espresso coffee’s taken within the final 60-90 min prior to a workout or race.

Note
It takes nearly twice as much Red Bull and nearly 3 times as much tea to equal the caffeine in coffee.

Try it out for yourself and tell me what you think of it.