Are You Overtraining?

Are You Overtraining? 

The biggest problem in sport is not overtraining, but overreaction to fatigue and improper management. Fatigue is not the enemy, but an important part of the training process. Without fatigue, the body has no reason to adapt and get better, so fatigue is a necessary part of the equation. Fatigue is not a simple reaction to training and competition; it is a complex array of responses that trigger changes to different organs and systems of the body. Scientists and coaches have debated the causes and methods that best measure fatigue for years, and solutions in recovery have been even less agreed on. In this article we will fully explain overtraining, from the response after a CrossFit workout to an entire season of an athlete who is struggling to get out of a hole.


The Super-compensation Model and Recovery



The general fitness and fatigue model is not perfect, due to the fact many different systems and organs in the body will be affected by training, but it is a good teaching example of adaptation from stressors. Adaptation is simply the body creating a response that allows it to tolerate the stressors introduced to it.  The body can only adapt so much and if overloaded (red line) it will take too long to repair and recover, delaying progress. If the training stress is not challenging enough, the workout adaption is too small (yellow line) to make improvements at a rate that will make real world progress. The right amount (white line) creates a higher ability later and doesn’t delay the recovery process, and a common term to describe the optimal dose of training is hitting the “sweet spot”.   The more frequent one can hit the right amount of training, the more progress and the lower the risk of overtraining.


Important Definitions of Different States of Fatigue 

Fatigue without oversimplifying too much is the absence of energy of power, and this status can be temporary or chronic. When we train, we challenge the body to a point that we can no longer sustain output of the exercise mode, and then most trainees rest and challenge the body again. The cycle of work and rest is a repeating pattern that eventually leads to better fitness and performance, but without the right plan, it can lead to stagnation, injury, or a decrease in performance.  One way to safeguard against overtraining is being more precise to the cause and effect of training by measuring both the workout and the fatigue from it. Measuring just one is helpful, but measuring both gives the individual trainee or coach a measuring stick of how the body responds to specific workouts and how to adjust sessions in the future. One particular problem with the train and recover or work and rest model is that not every workout follows the super-compensation model perfectly. Trainees and coaches are challenging different systems and qualities of the body, and the mix of different workouts makes it hard to see the cause and effect, forcing us to breakdown fatigue to more precise terms.


What is clear from the graphic is the variable of how long someone is in the state of fatigue, and how the specific state of fatigue reduces performance. In addition to a reduction of performance, the time needed to get back on track is displayed as well, showing that the longer one is overtraining, the longer one takes to recover. Most athletes, coaches, and trainees worry about injury and poor performance, but the loss of valuable time is also a problem. Coaches have known for years that higher levels of work are needed to challenge the body to adapt, but how deep one digs without creating a hole they can’t dig out of is usually the gamble some are willing or not willing to take. Not taking a risk coaches could risk underpreparing by going to conservative, being reckless and too aggressive can injure an athlete and ruin a season.  With such a fine line with training and recovery, the common question with CHECK™ users is how to create better workouts that make certain each session hits the “sweet spot” in training.


Preventing Overtraining with CHECK™ 


Using CHECK™ daily reduces overtraining by evaluating the neuromuscular system and scoring how tired one is compared to their baseline. After a few tests in the morning, the algorithms learn how your body responds to training and competition stress. Fatigue can be seen on the charts and recommendations are given in order to not do too much or overreact and not train hard when you are ready. Each user and coach is expected to do some interpretation of the CHECK™ score by making either small adjustments or staying on course with the original training regimen. We find four primary paths athletes and coaches should take after doing a reading.


Go Hard- When your score is high and you are ready, have faith in the test results and train hard.  Going hard is usually suggested during an offseason when rest periods are scheduled and competition is far away. Going hard in training is only suggested when competition performance is not a risk from residual fatigue.
Keep Going- When your score is in normal ranges it’s suggested to put the training in but don’t push it too hard. We find that during the competition phase strength and conditioning coaches want to do enough but not too much. A good rule of thumb is to leave the workout with something in the tank, but still challenge yourself or your athletes.
Slow Down- When your reading says to slow down coaches and athletes are faced with three options. One decision is just to skip the training and get rest, a common option when one is filling sick or exhausted.  Another option is to do passive recovery sessions of sports massage, sauna or whirlpool treatments, and focusing on nutrition. When the athlete is feeling fine, an active recovery workout such as circuits or light aerobic work are popular choices.
Get Help- If you or your athlete receives a suggestion to get help, a professional opinion is strongly encouraged. Chronically scoring low with CHECK™ is a sign something is wrong, and guidance is necessary outside resting and adjustments in training.


It’s ok to challenge the body to a point that it’s fatigued and performance stagnates if done correctly. Too long overreaching can lead to overtraining, a period that may leave an athlete at risk to injury and illness, or decreases their potential performance-wise. The difficulty of finding the optimal amount of training is extremely common with anyone pushing their body or coaches pushing athlete to their limits without breaking down. Daily testing with CHECK™ safeguards against doing too much or too little, and gives coaches confidence that they are on the right track.




Juha Ruohonen
Juha Ruohonen


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