Overtraining and the Value of Rest

When I talk to some athletes about their overtraining, I mean training, they try to impress me with their high volume and constantly intense programming. This is especially true of CrossFitters who are new or recently started programming for themselves. Even some weightlifters I talk to tell me how they are constantly going heavy. This is all great, but it won’t last. You have to rest, and you have to rest properly.

Is Rest Important?

What do the experts say? I am not talking about some research scientist sitting in a lab trying to figure out athletes. I am talking about intelligent athletes who have accomplished some amazing things. What do they say?

Blair Morrison

A great read, if you haven’t already, is In Search of a Programming God, by Emily Beers in the CrossFit Journal.  She outlines the programming of some the top CrossFit athletes. One of the highlighted athletes is Blair Morrison. Some of his accomplishments:

  • 7th place finish at the 2009 CrossFit Games
  • 23rd place finish at the 2010 CrossFit Games
  • 5th place finish at the 2011 CrossFit Games
I would say he knows what he is doing. What is his approach to rest??
  • 3 weeks on, 1 week off
  • On training weeks he trains; Mon./Wed./Fri.
While his training schedule is quite rigorous, it looks like he has figured out what works best for his body. He keeps a pretty sweet blog of his workouts and fitness in general at Anywhere Fit.

Jim Wendler

If you follow this blog then you know I am currently using the Wendler Strength Program  in my programming. If you haven’t read it you should! In the intro of his book, Jim talks about why he started this training method and why it was necessary for him to be able to continue training. Some of his accomplishments:

  • 275lb body weight
  • 1000lb squat
  • 675lb bench press
  • 700lb deadlift
  • 2375 total
This guy knows how to move some weight. He also basically trains with the 3 weeks on and 1 week off. Following the wendler program you lift heavy for 3 weeks, and the fourth week is a deload week. You only lift 40% of your training max. When I asked Dave Tate, Dave Kirschen, and Al Caslow if you could take this week off and only do conditioning the answer was…YES!!! You must give the body a break.


Dave Tate, CEO of EliteFTS and author of Under the Bar, states in his book Stong(er) Phase 1

“Over ninety percent of the clients I’ve worked
with over the course of my career – at least those with a training background
are either overtrained or very close to it when they come to
me for advice.”

That is not good! Are you overtrained? Let’s look at the symptoms:

  • Washed-out feeling, tired, drained, lack of energy
  • Mild leg soreness, general aches and pains
  • Pain in muscles and joints
  • Sudden drop in performance
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Decreased immunity (increased number of colds, and sore throats)
  • Decrease in training capacity / intensity
  • Moodiness and irritability
  • Depression
  • Loss of enthusiasm for the sport
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased incidence of injuries.
  • A compulsive need to exercise
I know I have been overtrained before. The most prominent symptoms for me is the loss of motivation to workout and not being able to sleep at night. Normally I have just been hitting it too hard and not giving my body adequate rest. For more on the symptoms above and what you can do check it out here.

Fitness as a Lifestyle

I’ll leave you with this…We are here to DO. We are not here to talk about what we did once or past accomplishments. Living in daydreams and past memories is not fitness. Work capacity today, now, is all that matters. A trophy or medal won’t get you through the rest of your life. Make fitness a lifestyle, a priority, and let it  help you live life.

Have you found a good rest cycle that works well? Care to share?

Photo by AmySelleck

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  • Kyle Goodrich

    Awesome article highlighting perhaps the most important part of training

    • http://endofthreefitness.com/ Jerred