“Overtraining: It’s real” by Jacky Bigger, M.S.

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Overtraining: It’s real

by Jacky Bigger, M.S.
Jacky is one of the best 63kg Weightlifters in the country. She is one of the top Mash Mafia Weightlifters, and she is a coach for MashElite.com. You can follow her on Instagram at: @a.little.bigger

It’s been on my mind lately to educate all my athletes about the risk of overtraining syndrome. Why? Because I’m finally beginning to recovering from a bout of it myself, and let me tell you, It’s not fun. I hear a lot of people out there say “There’s no such thing as over training, only under recovering.” Yes, the two may go hand in hand, but the only reason why you’d be under recovered is if your training is too strenuous to go along with your current lifestyle. Maybe the volume was okay before, but then you got a new job, got a puppy and had your car break down all in the same week. Combine all those stressors together, without adjusting your training to accommodate for it and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. I’m hoping by sharing my experience, you can learn from my mistakes and avoid all the awful symptoms that come with over training.

First, let me start with a definition. Over training has traditionally and simply been described as decreased performance as a result of increased volume and/or intensity. In the article “The Over Training Syndrome” Dr. Maffetone states “I have defined overtraining as a syndrome because it can have various signs and symptoms, depending on the individual. The overtraining syndrome is an imbalance in a simple equation: Training = Workout + Recovery. The full spectrum of overtraining can result in hormonal, nutritional, mental/emotional, muscular, neurological and other imbalances. These, in turn, can cause fatigue, depression, injuries and poor performance to name a few problems.” Dr. Maffetone hits it right on the head and I only wish I would have seen this definition about a month ago, so maybe I could have pinpointed the problem a bit sooner.

Here’s my story. I had ankle surgery back in December. I put so much pressure on myself to come back strong and fast, probably too fast. From December to May, I went from surgery to finally being able to walk, to full blown training, to dropping a weight class, competing and bombing out at nationals. After that, there was no time to waste. I bombed out. Which meant I had to work harder, do things even better, because everyone else was training harder than me, or so I thought. I competed at AO2 in July, posted a pretty okay total, but then just kept on pushing hard. No rest, because AO3 in September was the meet we were really hoping to do well at. But two weeks after AO2 it came out of nowhere and it hit me like a ton of bricks. I was over trained.

Here’s what I felt. My legs were dead, every day. Numbers that used to be routine for me, seemed almost impossible to hit. I was losing weight and had no appetite. Which for me, is absolutely absurd. I dreaded going to the gym. The place that I used to love most, all of the sudden became my least favorite place in the world. It took all the energy that I didn’t have to get my butt in the car and go. When I got there, I didn’t want to be there. The last thing I wanted to do was lift weights. My work capacity went way down, I began to get very fatigued, very quickly during workouts. My muscles felt flat, like they all just disappeared. I was “skinny fat” or at least that’s how I felt. Outside of the gym, I was sad, I cried a lot, sometimes for no reason at all. It was hard to get out of bed in the morning, and it was hard to motivate myself to get all my work done each day. It really did feel like I was depressed.

As an athlete in this situation, I wasn’t able to rationalize my symptoms. In my head, I still wasn’t working hard enough, I wasn’t getting better, so clearly, I needed to work harder. But from the outside looking in, it was pretty easy to see what was going on. Coach Don told me to go look up the definition of overtraining, and once I did that, I was finally able to see what was going on. Thankfully he’d seen it in athletes before and he knew exactly what to do. I needed rest, that’s all there was to it. As much as I didn’t want to rest, I finally gave in. Thankfully I did, or things could have gotten much worse. I took four days off and immediately started to feel better. Mentally I started to feel like myself again. Four days of rest was not all I needed, but it was a start. About a month later, I’m still not back to full training, but we’re being careful and I’m feeling better and better each week.

All that being said, I want to leave you off with three big things.

1. More is not always better. Training longer and harder doesn’t always equal better results.

2. Listen to your body and your mind. If you’re feeling weak or unmotivated, take the day off, go for a hike, ride your bike, or simply just rest. Your body is an amazing thing and usually knows exactly what you need. You just have to listen.

3. Listen to your coach when they tell you to take it easy the week after a competition, and just listen to your coach in general. You chose them as your coach for a reason, and they most likely have been around longer and know more than you do.

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