Overtraining is a myth. Sorry, but it is. Most people I know who say they are overtrained aren’t putting in enough hours to either a) reach a fitness goal or b) get better at a particular sport in even the loosest definition of an appropriate timeline. The body is an incredibly adaptable complex set of intertwined systems that can take an incredible amount of abuse before it’s pushed past its limits. Overtraining is a word used by people who just need a break. That’s ok, but needing a mental break from the gym is not the same as your body being pushed past its limits. The single largest contributor to people feeling overtrained is the consistent lack of effort put into recovery from training. People aren’t over trained, they’re under recovered. The fun part is the training, that’s the dynamic in your face adrenaline rush that has so many of us darkening the doors of our local gym. Recovery happens at home in the kitchen, on the living room floor, and with your head nestled sweetly on the pillow.
Recovery is as foreign an idea to most combat sports athletes as cardio is to powerlifters. What is recovery? Recovery is time spent away from the gym, repairing the damage you do during training. There are some key components and timelines to keep in mind when trying to recover efficiently. Immediately after class are you cooling down at all? Doing some light drilling, stretching, taking the time to work out the kinks? If you’re not doing that start, soon. Going from a full clip sparring directly to sitting on your ass making bad jokes with your friends is detrimental to your body. Take five minutes to cool down, do a light jog, some slow drilling, just get your body to a relaxed state after the adrenaline hit of hard training.
If you get home and just sit, sweating a stain into your couch? Don’t do that. Take the time before you stop sweating to take a lacrosse ball to your tight muscles, do some yoga, get your body stretched out and muscles relaxed. Then go take a hot shower. The result of hard training is a buildup of lactic acid in your muscles and higher cortisol levels. Not taking the time to get your body back to a relaxed state will result in that oh so common creakiness the next day. That joint stiffness that makes training multiple days in a row a real hassle. Take the time to take care of your muscles.
Sleep is a huge factor in recovering from training. If, after training, you go home and stay up till 1am watching cat videos on YouTube while knowing your alarm is going to go off in five hours, you’re cheating yourself out of quality recovery and repair time. Sleep is when your body can focus on repairing the beating you put it through repeatedly. I know not all of us have the luxury of getting a quality eight hours of sleep a night. Getting as much sleep as you can, as often as you can, is imperative to being injury free. Shut the TV off, turn off your phone, and go the hell to bed. The importance of sleep to proper recovery simply cannot be over stated. Sleep as much as you can as often as you can.
Sleep is super important to maintaining a healthy, not over trained body. But if you’re sleeping a full eight hours and wake up to a nutritious breakfast of Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Mountain Dew, you’re essentially throwing away any benefit you gained from that solid eight hours. Stop eating like trash after training. It’s endemic. The people I see who are the most beat up, most hurt, most swollen, are the people that look at a five scoop ice cream sundae as proper recovery fuel. It’s not. Eating the correct whole foods before training (this is dicey if you’re like me and unfortunate things can happen If you eat before training, maybe make sure your lunch is solid and avoid those issues by waiting till after training to eat) and after training. Do a little prep, make sure your fridge is stocked with quality protein sources and good healthy veggies and fruit. You don’t have to be a food weighing psycho or a calorie counting nut bag, just eat clean whole foods after you’re done training.
In order to get better at what you want to do you have to train as much as you can. In order to train as much as you can you have to take care of the meat vehicle that takes the beating of training. Make sure you’re putting as much effort into what you do after training as you do actually training