Repeat After Me: There Is No Such Thing as Overtraining

Rob MacDonald

Guest Contributor

Strength Training, MMA, Strength and Conditioning


There is no such thing as overtraining. There is only under-recovery. Most people don’t put in enough time, effort, or intensity to put themselves into a state of overtraining. Most people simply don’t recover well enough.


bobby maximus running



What Is Overtraining?

Genuine overtraining refers to a long-term pattern of being overworked that is often coupled with substandard recovery. There are those who may put themselves in a genuine state of overtraining. Take, for example, the athlete who puts in between 1,000 and 1,300 quality hours a year. That works out to between nineteen to 25 hours per week, every week of the year, with no time off. These aren’t just junk hours, either. They are quality hours. Do you train that much? Do you put in that kind of effort?


Ask yourself a simple question and answer it honestly: “How much do I train in an average week?” Remember that just showing up to the gym for a few hours a day doesn’t mean you trained. We are talking about quality hours here. So, how many quality hours do you put in per week? It probably isn’t enough to actually be overtrained. Chances are that if you think you are overtrained, you are actually just under-recovered.


If you want to improve, then recovery must be taken seriously. The work in the gym is only a piece of the puzzle when it comes to being fit. Remember:


Training = Work + Rest


Without adequate rest and recovery, your training will become less effective and you will plateau. In my experience, when people have hit a plateau, it is because they are under-recovered and can’t train with the proper intensity to burst through and keep progressing.



4 Essential Recovery Strategies

Here are some strategies to help you make the most of your recovery. The more of these you can institute, the better off you will be. You can never over-recover. In this case, there is never too much of a good thing. Incorporate as many of these as possible into your daily and weekly routine.


Repeat After Me: There Is No Such Thing as Overtraining - Fitness, overtraining syndrome, overtraining spectrum, rest and recovery, Sleep, Recovery, mobility, massage, foam roller, rest, rest day

Treat your recovery like you treat your finances. Always save more than you spend. Training sessions and life stress are debits. Recovery practices, sleep, and stress management are credits. You always want more entries in the credits column.


1. Sleep

Think of yourself as a smart phone and your bedroom as the charger. If you leave the house in the morning and your phone is carrying a 20% charge, how useful a tool is it? It will be shutting down by noon. You can’t text, you can’t talk, and you can’t play on Facebook, get directions, or check your email. The phone becomes useless. On the other hand, if you leave the house on a 100% charge, you have a useful tool all day.




Your body works the same way. Get enough quality sleep and you leave the house fully charged and ready to go. If you leave under-slept and undercharged, then how well do you really expect yourself to perform?


"You can never over-recover. In this case, there is never too much of a good thing. Incorporate as many of these as possible into your daily and weekly routine."

There is nothing more anabolic then a few extra hours of sleep. Try to accumulate eight to nine hours per night. Protect the quality of that sleep by turning your bedroom into a place of rest. Use blackout curtains to keep out the light. Get rid of other sources of light and energy in the room by getting rid of electronics. If you use an alarm clock, tape over the lights so the glow doesn’t fill your room.


By getting eight to nine hours a night in a completely dark and restful environment, your body will produce more human growth hormone and more testosterone. This will lead to numerous positive effects, including a higher training intensity and, therefore, better gains in the gym. Probably in life, as well.



recovery, rest, overtraining, foam rolling, sleep

Teaching my little one the importance of good sleep


2. Stress Management

Managing stress is essential to maintaining a good level of recovery. Stress kills us. It is almost impossible to train hard and recover while under a high amount of stress. Nothing seems to work right.


Think back to a time when you were under an incredible amount of stress. Maybe it was from work or from a bad relationship. How was your training? Did you progress or did you plateau?


For most people stress is self-imposed:


  • That bad relationship you are in? Get out of it. There is better out there for you.
  • That job you hate? Maybe it is time to explore finding new employment. You are probably qualified to do something else.
  • Do you find yourself sitting in a traffic jam an hour or two every day? Leave for work earlier in the morning so you aren’t stuck in traffic and then use the extra time to train, read, or relax. Instead of leaving work and hopping in the car only to sit for an hour in traffic, why not train right away at a nearby gym and drive home when the traffic clears?
  • Turn off your phone sometimes. You don’t need to be connected all day, every day.
  • Get rid of negative and poisonous people from your life. You become what you hang around.


These are just some of the things you can do to alleviate stress. Take a look at your life, take inventory of your current state of affairs, and then start making some changes.


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