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Gaintrust Weekly Recap 2
Topics: Overtraining, Intensity Techniques, My Thoughts on Growth
Topic 1: Overtraining
“Unless you’re a pro athlete, the risk of ‘overtraining’ is next to zero.” - Me (2023)”
This week I decided I wanted heat from every corner of the fitness world on Twitter/X by making this bold statement. In hindsight, I should’ve clarified that I was talking about weight-lifting, but that wouldn’t have been as fun!
Most of the debate revolved around there being “no good” definition of overtraining and that overtraining is all relative. Meaning, a person could be in any state of under-recovered and still be considered “overtrained” if they experience the symptoms.
I argued that any definition which did not provide any unique insight (in which case, the terms ‘fatigued’ or ‘under-recovered’ did not already describe), was “stupid.” The broader idea being that, by holding for maximum recoverability, we arrive at the upper-threshold for the human capacity to recover for total workload. My assertion is that, because we arrive at new information with this definition, it’s the preferred, more useful one.
Professor at McMaster University, Stuart Phillips, weighed in on the debate and rejected my assertion that a relative definition was “stupid” and put forward an article with the most recent IOC ‘consensus’ definition on the syndrome. He wrote back to me that “because it’s relative and not absolute … makes it neither useless nor ‘stupid’.”
Very good, Professor. Appreciate the good natured Twitter exchange!
IOC Consensus Definition of Overtraining Syndrome:
Prolonged maladaptation of the athlete, with negative changes in markers of performance and several biological, neurochemical and hormonal regulation mechanisms, occurring in some athlete after periods of excessive loading and non- functional overreaching; however, with a multifactorial aetiology (adapted from Meeusen et al., 2013).
This definition touches on a term that is worth defining as well: overreaching (functional and non-functional).
IOC Consensus Definition of Functional Overreaching (Overreaching):
A deliberate accumulation of load during a training cycle aimed at enhancing performance. The accumulated training load can result in a short-term decrement in performance capacity; however, when appropriate periods of recovery are provided, physiological responses will compensate the training-related stress and lead to enhanced performance compared to baseline levels, often labelled ‘super- compensation’ (adapted from Meeusen et al., 2013).
In simple terms, functional overreaching is a strategy where athletes intentionally train harder, experience a temporary dip in performance, but with proper rest, they come back stronger and perform better than before.
If we examine my original claim “Unless you’re a pro athlete, the risk of ‘overtraining’ is next to zero,” it sounds a lot like I’m describing what happens when athletes (weight-lifters) overreach.
IOC Consensus Definition of Non-Functional Overreaching:
Intentional increased loading or training that results in physiological or physical maladaptation. It is a state of extreme overreaching, which will lead to a stagnation or decrease in performance that will not resume for several weeks or months. Eventually, after sufficient rest, the athlete will be able to fully recover.
Non-functional Overreaching, I would suggest, is what happens when athletes train mostly at the level of professional athletes. In the context of weight-training, this probably looks something like 8-10, 2-hour sessions per week. No matter the recovery strategies, the person training this way is likely to experience what is described above as non-function overreaching.
Topic 2: Intensity Techniques
“Anything other than straight sets is stupid.”
I’ll have a lot more to say on this in the future but it’s worth bringing up my issue with this statement, albeit briefly.
First, what I agree with…
Straight sets should make up the majority of your training, hands down, no question. Straight sets are understood to be the most effective for for muscle growth. Take a look at any respectable program and they will make up 2/3rds to 3/4ths the sets. Because they primarily work the muscle through mechanical tension-based volume accumulation, they deserve their place at the top of the pecking order for your training.
But this doesn’t mean intensity techniques have no place in our training. There are disagreements to be had on the details, but the idea that you can throw out metabolite training entirely, another tool in the tool-shed, is... bold? Arrogant?
There are nuances to this, of course. Which muscle groups respond best to which types of intensity training techniques, where to place them in your training sessions, and where to place them across the timeline of a program, all questions that require and deserve a deeper dive.
I stand firm in my belief that expertly placed metabolite training modality (intensity techniques) can effectively maximize the number of effective reps and stimulate growth. It requires careful consideration and hopefully a fair amount of positive experience to do this, however. Which is one of the reasons I am skeptical of those who discount it altogether.
Lot’s of room for debate!
Topic 3: My Thoughts On Growth
No, I don’t mean muscle growth, but the same lessons apply.
I’ve experienced many years of set-backs, stagnation, growth at a crawling rate, and most recently, growth at a satisfying rate.
There are no formulas, methods, or mindset-hacks that I can impart on you to help you on your path forward to grow as a person. I think consuming the kind of content that pushes this may feel good in the moment and maybe moments afterward, but it’s rare that someone or something gives me what I need to keep pushing forward.
What I am going to lay out here will likely have no direct translation to your own situation, but maybe some of the ideas underneath it can translate to something of value.
With the throat clearing out of the way, I do two things very well.
I jump in before I’m ready
At first, it’s about seeing if you can float, and the majority of the time, you can. Sort of like the saying, “ask for forgiveness, not permission,” you. may surprise yourself with your ability to hang with people you used to think stood 10 feet taller than you. Once you're in the pool, start learning as much as you can from everyone and everything to earn it.
Learn skills that enhance and improve other skills
There is overlap and positive impact between every one of these skills I am practicing on a daily basis.
The more writing I do, the more reading and research is required.
The more filming and learning camera angles and framing shots, the more video editing I do.
The more video editing I do, the more reading, research, writing, is required to have the videos be informative and useful.
The more community building I do, the more networking I do, as well as social media marketing and fitness programming (providing deliverables to the community).
Making this all work requires I build sustainable systems that keep it all flowing.
Am I great at any one of these things… some maybe. But most of these I’m only getting started yet am already reaping the benefits.
Whatever you can do in your own life, to build the skills that carry over to other parts of your life, do them daily and give yourself enough time (may be years) for them to develop.
Have weekly deliverables to keep you accountable
Whether it’s a blog post for your followers, or weekly tweets on a subject you care about, or in my case all of the above and programming for weekly training subscribers in Gaintrust. You wont always be motivated, so being accountable to others will carry you forward — kicking and screaming sometimes.
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Hope you all had a productive week and will see you all next Sunday.