Thursday, April 1, 2010

Overtraining vs. Overthinking

A couple of weeks ago I said that I was going to write a post addressing the topic of adrenal fatigue. I researched the topic thoroughly, but through that process I realized that the information that I had “learned” had only made me more critical of my own training regimen, essentially compelling me to search for every minute symptom of adrenal fatigue that I might be experiencing.

Long story short, adrenal fatigue is a condition in which one’s adrenal glands function at a sub-optimal level when one is at rest, under stress, or in response to consistent or intermittent physical and mental demands. The term adrenal fatigue is used synonymously with the concept of “overtraining.” Adrenal fatigue can be caused by excessive physical, emotional and mental stress (and can also be triggered by excessive caffeine consumption, which causes a great deal of stress to the adrenal glands).

After I had researched the topic and took some time off, I realized that I was worrying way too much about the “adrenal fatigue” that I was experiencing. Sometimes life demands one to do work, whether it is mental or physical, when one is not in an ideal performance state. In order to be “functionally fit” one needs to be able to continue to do strenuous work under duress.

I had this epiphany today, when, after a night of lackluster sleep, I came to the gym feeling more like taking a nap than throwing a bunch of weight over my head. I decided to push through it and see how I felt. My lifting workout wasn’t amazing, but I got some good work done and felt like I overcame an enormous mental block in the process. Following the lift I decided to head up to Novato to do a shooting workout involving a couple-hundred made jumpers and a series of sprints intermittently between sections of shooting. I ended up having an awesome workout and I even hung on the rim a couple of times.

So when you are feeling tired and sorry for yourself, workout and push through the imaginary wall that you have manufactured in front of yourself. The human body is capable of much more then the mind allows us to be aware of.

All of this being said, rest days are essential to achieving optimal performance and sleep is just about as important to human vitality as breathing is. So take one, two, or even three rest days a week and “get as much sleep as you can without being divorced or fired” (quote from Robb Wolf), but play with pushing through fatigue, you might just have a stellar workout and turn your day around.


  1. So, Ben, you are telling me that 8 days of training in a row is not good for me?

  2. nice article! Loved how you were convinced with all of your research that you were indeed suffering from adrenal fatigue. good thing you weren't researching Alzheimers or something like that (-:
    For me, there is certainly that invisible wall of 'I'm tired, feeling weak, lazy and out of shape" but also that more serious voice of "i'm REALLY tired and I better curl up with a good book for the evening blow off the gym" My problem of late is I've been listening to that first voice more than the second. Twice in the past week I've gone to do the WOD and dropped out because of recurring injury, exhaustion, etc. In the almost-year that I've been doing CrossFit, that has never happened before.
    Well, as I type this, maybe that's not so bad afterall. I know for so many people "the hardest part about working out is getting to the gym" and, well, maybe best that I at least start the workout to see if its exhaustion type-1 or exhaustion type-2. And, if its the more serious type-2, just quit, stretch out and then go back home and really curl up with that good book.