Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Got into a discussion on anther blog about over-training. I allowed as how the guy who was talking about his routine was getting a bit long in the tooth, and, as a fellow old-fart, I warned him against pushing too hard.

Whereupon a poster who is an expert trainer and far more knowledgeable than I, allowed as how there was no such thing as "over-training," only "under-recovery," and being "under-prepared."

I confess my first reaction was that this seemed to me like cutting a piece of rope off one end and then tying it to the other end to make the rope longer. I understand that the emphasis was more on an active recovery process rather than simply passive, but still ...

If your cat has kittens in the oven, that doesn't make them biscuits.

Without getting too anatomically-correct, the way the human body works to get stronger and fitter is by a process of overload and recovery, and the building of new muscle tissue needs both. If you overwork the system, either by too much exercise -- or too little rest and nutrition -- you don't get fitter, you burn out. There are signs and symptoms, and easy enough to recognize 'em. For a fairly inclusive list, look here. Basically, if you are tired, your heart rate is high, you have trouble sleeping and you are depressed and you are working out hard every day, probably you are doing too much -- or, to be fair -- too little on the other end.

So, I'm hearing all the latest thoughts on what constitutes "active" recovery, while I don't know what they all are, I kinda feel that I have a handle on it for my own system.

Over the years, I have done a fair amount of strenuous exercise. I was, at various times, a fairly serious swimmer, runner, martial artist, iron pumper, bicyclist, and even a yoga-wonk. Not so much any more, though I do manage to work up a sweat now and then.

Along those lines right now, I am admittedly less flexible than I should be. My bad. I should do better.

To aid in recovering from these sweat-making things, I've used assorted methods that have worked for me. Warming-up, warming-down; stretching; plenty of rest; good diet, supplemented with vitamins and minerals; drinking a lot of water. Got a hot tub/spa I use almost every day, and I get a deep tissue massage a couple times a month. Breathing stuff, too.
A little red wine before dinner.

Even so, I sometimes overdo it, and I've learned that -- Jack LaLanne notwithstanding -- you have to pay more attention to these things as you get older. Jack is in miraculous shape for ninety-two, but he isn't the man he was at fifty, much less thirty. Once you are on the downslope, you get to a point if diminishing returns -- you can't do as much as you used to.
Unless, as I said there, you know where Ponce de Leon hid the map, or Dorian Gray's portrait painter did a picture for you that you keep in the attic.

People who say "no limits!" have their hearts in the right place. If you reach for the stars and miss, at least you don't come up with a handful of mud. Thing is, them stars are a ways off, and your head needs to know this.

How many people you know that are, say, a hundred and fifty or sixty years old? If there were no limits to human physicality, there'd be some Methuselahs running around. I don't know of any. (Kind of like those Oil of Olay commercials where they show some twenty-something babe putting the cream on her face and everybody goes "Ooh, look how it gets rid of wrinkles!" Please. You want to impress people, bring out an eighty-year-old granny and smooth out those lines with a few days of cold cream ...

So I found it interesting that somebody seemed to be saying there is no such thing as over-training. Because from where I sit, if you go to the gym six hours a day and hit the weights and the treadmill and the stationary bike like gangbusters, you are apt to overdo it, and if you are on my side of fifty or sixty, there isn't enough time for you to recover from that, unless maybe you came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men.

As always, your mileage may vary. I could be wrong. I have to allow for the possibility ...


Michael said...

I'm a certified strength training instructor and have been involved in he industry off and on for several years. I have done a lot of reading on the subject and I strongly believe that there is such a thing as over training.

I think under-recovery is by far the most common way for people (especially in their 20's) to manage to SIGNIFICANTLY over train, but that doesn't mean it's the only way. In fact, I'm very much of the opinion that if you provide the body with a strong stimulus to adapt that additional stimulus, prior to recovery, constitutes unnecessary training if not over training.

I also feel that any unnecessary training requires system resources that could be better utilized in other ways and inhibits recovery. So, I would go so far as to say that exercise in excess of the minimum necessary to stimulate the desired response constitutes over training whether or not it triggers the traditional symptoms of over training.

It requires some experimentation and careful record keeping to find the ideal combination of exercise volume and intensity, and recovery time but with a bit of time it's pretty easy to get a reasonably accurate picture. I understand that there are now blood tests that allow for a much greater level of accuracy, but I haven't yet had the opportunity to experiment with that myself.


Bobbe Edmonds said...

>"If your cat has kittens in the oven, that doesn't make them biscuits."<

Mine! Stealing it! Done! WRITE THAT ONE OFF!!!

Holy shit, three hours later and I'm still snorting...That was so great!

Thanks old man!

Steve Perry said...

Sorry, Kid, but I was using that one when you were knee high to a grasshopper. Along with a few others:

"If they put your brain in a peanut shell, it'd rattle like a BB in a boxcar."

Or, "If brains were gasoline, you couldn't run a piss-ant's motorbike."

Or, "You look like you been et by a wolf and shat over a cliff ..."

Steve Perry said...

But, to be fair, since I stole them, then steal away ...

phillip said...

I don't know about over-training... when I was in the Army I was begging for somebody to figure out that they were over-training us... But the truth is I didn't die, I just adapted.

Steve Perry said...

Yeah, people survive all kinds of abuse. But over-training certainly exists, and as you age, you have to pay attention to such things. If you don't, you have to pay a price, in injury and pain.