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Fitness Theory and Practice. CrossFit's rationale & foundations. Who is fit? What is fitness?

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Old 04-12-2006, 11:48 AM   #1
Marc Moffett
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I suppose that most of us agree that the concept of overtraing is, well, over used. I am just curious if there is something like a consensus on what overtraining really is. Here are some suggestions (some of which are clearly wrong):

1. Overtraining = an amount of exercise that produces sub-maximal muscle production.

2. Overtraining = an amount of exercise that produces sub-maximal performance in physical activities.

3. Overtraining = a psychological state (possibly with a physiological underpinning)that demotivates one for exercise.

4. Overtraining = an amount of exercise that produces sub-maximal health results.

There are no doubt a bunch of others that I haven't thought about. My inclination is to say that something like (4) is the correct way of thinking about it and that this may not exactly map what seems like the best second choice (2).

Any thoughts?
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Old 04-12-2006, 12:50 PM   #2
Chris Kemp
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My thought would be that it is an exercise load in excess of an individuals ability to recover, taking into account their sleep, nutrition, hydration etc.

In other words, it is not the training load that induces the problem, rather the lack of care given to the necessary recovery processes and parameters.

Cheers, kempie
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Old 04-12-2006, 12:54 PM   #3
Skipp Benzing
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I believe Chris is right. No such thing as overtraining, just under-recovery.
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Old 04-12-2006, 01:13 PM   #4
Marc Moffett
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Thanks for the responses. Point taken. However, I presume that there are exercise protocols that human physiology can't tolerate w/out loss regardless of sleep, nutrition, etc.

At least part of the question here, of course, is what constitutes recovery? Muscle-building might be a measure, as might performance on Fran. But these measures might not track recovery in terms of increased health--whatever exactly that might be. It is at least possible, for instance, that a work out regimen which consistently produces PRs on the benchmark WODs is not optimal for health, either being too much or too little.

(Message edited by Marc_m on April 12, 2006)
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Old 04-12-2006, 01:32 PM   #5
Ross Hunt
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"It is at least possible, for instance, that a work out regimen which consistently produces PRs on the benchmark WODs is not optimal for health, either being too much or too little."

What leads you to believe this?

It seems to me that it takes much better recovery to produce a PR than it takes to maintain health; it seems like training quality would bite the dust as a consequence of poor recovery long before health was adversely affected in any serious way.

However, I do agree that the maxim 'there is no such thing as overtraining, only under-recovery' is patently false. For instance, there is no one who could attempt max triples in the back squat every day for a week straight without his performance suffering across the board.

If I'm not mistaken, Siff explained overtraining as the excessive taxing of the central nervous system, and distinguished two different types of overtraining, each producing different symptoms. What mosty people consider to be overtraining--simply training in such a way that you can't recover enough to see progress in your regimen--is not necessarily considered overtraining according to this account. Overtraining is a condition induced by extreme CNS exhaustion, with specific physiological symptoms. I've only 'overtrained' according to this definition once or twice.
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Old 04-12-2006, 02:15 PM   #6
David Wood
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Two quick thoughts:

A) Training correctly is about keeping the necessary balance between training and recovery. Some overtraining may just be "under-recovery" in the sense that a greater training load can be profitable if greater attention is paid to recovery (proper food, sleep, contrast baths, massage, etc.).

But clearly, there is *some* training load beyond which all humans will break down (back-to-back marathons, with 200 pounds on your back, 50 consecutive days, etc.) (I know, somebody is about to try it, but even *he* will break down at some load). No amount of maximal "recovery" will make up for an infinite training load.

The challenge is to do as much "recovery" as your life and finances allow, and not exceed the training load that you can recover from.

B) I think the choice between (1), (2) and (4) in Marc's original choices above depends on what you're training for. A bodybuilder presumably cares about (1), a CrossFitter presumably cares more about (2) . . . although I'm sure there's room for choosing both (they probably go together).

I think (3) is just a common external symptom of (1) and/or (2).

I'm honestly not sure how optimal health and maximal performance inter-relate. Over the long term (measured in years), I think they're pretty much the same thing . . . anything I call "health" has to include a very high level of physical performance. In the very short run, I can imagine that some variations on training for a specialized purpose maximum effort (e.g., a marathon) could compromise all-around long-term health. This will be doubly true if you allow the phrase "training" to include taking performance-enhancing drugs (although I presume that's off the table for most CrossFitters).
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Old 04-12-2006, 02:34 PM   #7
Carl Herzog
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Although there is some difference of opinion as to the definition, overtraining syndrome is a real phenomenon. It doesn't, however, match up very well with the way most people use the term.

It's valuable to say a bit about what it's not. Overtraining syndrome is not simply exceeding your short term ability to recover. That might better be described as over-reaching. Overtraining can result from repeated over-reaching. Do it often enough and eventually, even if you take some time off, you fail to recover in anything like a normal amount of time. It totally sucks, trust me.

Here's a decent discussion of it:
http://www.rrca.org/publicat/sum99ots.htm

Coach Glassman described overtraining as "a neuroendocrine beat-down", or some such. That actually sums it up rather well.
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Old 04-12-2006, 04:57 PM   #8
Marc Moffett
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David, I agree with your point (B). It is the relation between maximal perfomance and optimal health that generated the post. It struck me that an exercise protocol that was optimal for inducing really fantastic WOD scores might not be optimal for overall health. And this, in turn, was motivated by the discussion of IF. After all, an IF protocol might generally cause one to suffer a bit in WOD performance but still be worth it on a cost benefit analysis as far as overall health goes. (I am not saying it would do that.) I was also thinking that my usual work-out routine doesn't seem to map hunter-gatherer activities particularly well. On this point, Art DeVaney's picture of hunterer-gatherer life seems to me a bit too idealistic: a little hard work, some lazing around, a lot of moderate activity. (I know from many years experience bowhunting that spending long periods of time in a quasi-primitive situation isn't physiologically much like hitting the gym, playing some golf and napping.)

Anyway, I was just kicking around ideas.

Carl, Thanks for the link.
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Old 04-13-2006, 05:55 AM   #9
bill fox
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"a neuroendocrine beat-down"

I like that as much as any pithy discription I've seen. I think this is a big topic because it's used as a huge "legit" copout. I think the take a week off thing is HUGELY abused. I haven't taken a week off, well, ever (barring open heart and internal bleeding). I NEED to train. I think maybe if you actually require a week off you have gone past health/fitness point and I can't see that being good for optimzing performance either.

WIth CF it's more in the forefront because your using a high intensity "affront" to the NE system to illicit the training response, so you're playing with fire, a bit.This requires a real chill on the ego to stay on that ragged edge. It's easy to go past.

I think mental burnout is way more common. A week of WODs, or Sheyko, or whatever, you don't like could really make you sour. If you can't get it up for what's scheduled, do something else. If you're fired up on an off day, train.

I get raft of crap where my log is posted for not "sticking to a program" but I think this why I've worked out 5x a week for like 25 years.

Just like the idea of IF or the CF "template", variation prevents alot of bad stuff from happening.
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Old 04-14-2006, 07:20 AM   #10
Marc Moffett
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So it seems that there are two related issues. One concerns the neuroendocrine smack down; the other concerns goal-relative effects of training. The first, undermines the second: if you overtax the CNS too frequently you are going to undermine whatever goals you might have concerning strength, performance and health. So we can all agree on not doing that. For simplicity, call this sort of overtraining, "strong overtraining".

But that leaves open the question concerning "weak overtraining". Weak overtraining is a relational concept which concerns an exercise regimen that exceeds the limit for the optimal production of some chosen physiological effect. If that effect, for instance, is muscle hypertrophy, then CF (3 on, 1 off) might be considered overtraining. If it is the general sort of fitness articulated in the first CF journal, then it won't be overtraining.
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