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Old 11-12-2013, 12:12 PM   #1
Andrei Muresianu
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Any experience with recovery from deep overtraining syndrome? Help...

Hi, I just joined the forum at a generally low point in my exercise life,

The quick story: 33 years old. I have always been very active.
For the last 10 years I have been about 215lbs at 6'4", exercising about 5-7x a week with 3-5x crossfit/weights, the rest basketball, biking, etc.

At the beginning of 2012 I had the first 3 of 6 foot surgeries. I decided if I wanted to be able to ski in 20 years it could help if I lost weight. Recovering from the foot reconstructions meant for over a year I could not bend my foot- so no basketball, running, etc. However I could deadlift, squat, bench, row and spin bike--anything where my toes did not have to bend.

I got strict on my diet and went from 215 to 173lbs. At 173 I was deadlifting 450, could do 35 pullups, etc... the leanest and strongest I had ever been. However my lifting was high volume, to failure, no deloading, progressively increased weight and was monotonous. Eventually I started to feel creeping fatigue but I kept lifting because I wanted to be in peak shape for when my feet healed and I could play sports again. As a result I lifting and doing cardo both 6x a week in calorie deficit... and pushing through the fatigue. Since my lifts kept creeping higher and higher I told myself I was not "overtrained."

Then the fatigue became meaningfully worse... so I tried moving to lower volume, adding rest and cutting cardio... but it was too late. Suddenly my body shut down. My heart rate would jump just mowing my lawn and going grocery shopping my legs felt like they were made of cement like I had just run sprints. I had probably not gone 24 hours without exercise since the 1990's and now have not exercised for 3 months.

I have gone to multiple doctors, had a LOT of blood work, had a stress echocardiogram and, hardest of all, rested for 3 months. After ruling out blood/thyroid/kidney/vitamin/etc... deficiencies and disorders it looks more likely that I am "overtrained" (a vague diagnosis). I went on an incredibly strict 6 week elimination diet to rule out food sensitivity, tried acupuncture, Chinese herbs... am trying meditation... and I feel 0% better, maybe even worse as I have lost a lot of muscle and that makes you feel sad.

There is a lot written about how to AVOID overreaching (when you recover with 1-2 weeks of rest) and overtraining (when you do not respond to rest over a period of months or longer).
...and there is very but very little written about what to do if you ARE ALREADY overtrained.

Does anyone have any advice?
Has anyone been through this?
A. Nutrition: Foods/supplements to avoid or overload?

B. Specific eastern medicine-Acupuncture, meditation, etc... to pursue?

C. If I am overtrained and need to recover is any exercise okay? Beneficial? Can I play casual tennis? Can I avoid squats but do 30 minutes of CNS-light pushups, pullups, situps 2-3x a week, never going to failure?

D. Are there doctors or specialists (nutritionists, etc) that you know of who have worked with overtrained athletes (bodybuilders, triathletes, etc) that someone would recommend (in L.A. but I can travel)?

E. Any idea what the timeline to recover is...? I am shocked to not feel recovered after 3 months? Should I reset expectations to 6 months? 1 year?

F. If I start to feel recovered, when can I start to deadlift again or take a set to failure without setting back progress by a month with 45 minutes in the gym?

G. Any other advice I am not even considering?

Any help/guidance you have to offer would be wonderful. I am really struggling here...
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Old 11-12-2013, 05:58 PM   #2
Jordan Derksen
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Re: Any experience with recovery from deep overtraining syndrome? Help...

I'll refrain from calling any of this 'advice' as I'm not a medical professional, what follows is just my experience through my own training journey.

Point #1: EAT SOME FOOD!!!!!
First thing that hits me is that you dieted down to 173? You must be nuts, at 6'4 healthy for you is 200-215. You had a good thing going with the weight you had. I'm 6'2, I've fought for every pound; what I can say is as my bodyweight (and yes far levels) have gone up I have balanced out more mentally and I recover better from workouts. For the love of all that's holy quit the paleo nonsense and eat some freaking food. You're not overtrained, you're under recovered. For you to diet down would mean some intense changes in your food macros. I bet if you add 2-4 cups of rice, some more red fatty meats, and pounded a bit more nuts or oils to your daily intake your problem would begin to disappear very quickly. A good friend of mine is the same height as me, he was around 210-215. One year before regionals he dieted down to 190 or so because he thought being lighter would make him faster. He had his worst regionals ever. He was totally wasted. The next year he bounced back up to a healthy weight and he took second.

Likely you have done metabolic damage and it's going to take time to bounce back.

Point #2: Stop working out to failure on everything, ESPECIALLY functional movements with barbell weight. This is my experience so before ya'll jump in with some study I'm not even saying this is exercise fact, I'm just saying it's worked for me. The only thing you should go to failure on is isolated single joint light weight bodybuilder style movements. When you fail regularly on heavy barbell movements regularly you leave your CNS in the toaster way too long and turn it up to 10. From my experience following cf style programming RM doesn't ever freaking mean RM if you want to make progress. I spent a long time going 100% hitting maxes all the time and never got anywhere. It was until I backed it up and found a real strength program (it doesn't have to be complicated, simple is better) and progressed naturally by using training to elicit a response not as a constant test of my fitness. 5x5 Back squats does not mean 5 sets of 5 with every set to failure I'm gonna go balls out because crossfit rocks yaaa! It's volume work. Stick around 80-90%. Currently I'm doing my 5x5 days at a weight that's 10lb heavier than a weight I've back squatted 20 times in one set. Know what? It's working. Remember that in the gym you are training. Your training today for tomorrow. For next week. For next year. That means if you feel like crap you take a light week even if your max is still going up. In a recent olympic lifting cycle I did I hit over my 1RM Snatch on the last week of a 3 week heavy training cycle. It makes no sense but it happened. Fortunately I learned from my mistakes and I took my 4th week as light anyways because I know that I'm training to elicit a response and then backing off to bounce back. Hit some PR's? Great! Back off, recover, and go higher. Don't just keep going.

I'll leave you with 2 examples, and this is my understanding of his training so I could be wrong, but I've listened to every barbell shrugged episode with him. Rich Froning probably has the highest bodyfat out of the male competitors, at 5'9 he's at least 20lb heavier than you. Go eat some food. Also, from my understanding Rich almost never goes to failure. All of the work I've seen him do on video he gets in for overall volume, not for highest intensity. Snatches? Ya he'll do 15 minutes EMOTM at 185lb for power snatches (at the time that was 65% of his max) and wave up and down depending on feel. Power Cleans? Same thing. Weighted Pull-ups, Bench Press? Ya 5x5 at a reasonable weight. Everything he does is moderated based on feel and I would guess he spends all his time in the 70-90% range. The percentages don't really matter, he never sits around with a calculator, he just knows what medium and heavy feel like.

Rant over.

Edit: forgot to answer this. I've heard from a guy who went through something similar that it can take a full year to really bounce back. I would suggest still doing movements but put the barbell away, do only bodyweight for a few months. And for the love of all that's holy don't go to failure every time on every set. Also, time off is not bad. Top Olympic Weightlifters (Ilya Ilyin) will take a full year off training to recover after an Olympics. And that's an Olympic athlete. Average Joe can take time off, you won't waste away.
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Last edited by Jordan Derksen : 11-12-2013 at 06:05 PM.
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Old 11-13-2013, 08:09 AM   #3
David Finney
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Re: Any experience with recovery from deep overtraining syndrome? Help...

I had a similar problem when I was in racing road bikes. One winter I went crazy, rode too much, and overtrained myself to the point where I didn't want to ride at all. And when I did ride, I was slow and didn't have any energy.

My solution was actually simple. I got rid of all the training logs, diaries, and literature, and got back to having fun. I started riding because it was fun, and I had forgotten what "fun" was. I don't want to sound judgemental, but it looks like you are over-analyizing the s*** out of your training. I would say your best bet is to do some exercise that's fun, and eat healthy food until you feel full. Don't count your calories, don't log your workouts, and don't step on a scale. Do something fun and active, and eat good healthy food. And when I say healthy food, I don't mean a strict paleo, gluten-free, or zone diet. Eat quality food that tastes good.

To quote Mark Twight, "The mind is primary." This seems to apply here also. get your head in the right place, and your body will follow.
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Old 11-15-2013, 09:36 AM   #4
Greg Spaight
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Re: Any experience with recovery from deep overtraining syndrome? Help...

6 foot 4 and 170-something sounds corpse like skinny...you may have crossed the bridge to an anorexic state.

I did the same thing as David when racing USCF. Got down to 142 at 5 foot 11, all lungs and legs and my body was jacked. Dealt with a full blown eating disorder (bulimia) for several years and took a lot to get through that...took 6 months to feel like I had any gas in the tank.
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Old 11-20-2013, 07:34 AM   #5
Frank Fusco
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Re: Any experience with recovery from deep overtraining syndrome? Help...

Agree with the other posters above.

If you are looking for more information/resources about what could be going on, I recommend researching the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and HPA dysregulation.

To start you off, here is an article that discusses it and what you can do:
http://www.bengreenfieldfitness.com/...s-dysfunction/ (wfs)

You'll see there is no magic bullet. Eat good food (and enough of it), get lots of quality sleep and reduce stress in your life as much as you can. Don't do anything extreme. The "incredibly strict 6 week elimination diet" you went on was most likely an additional stressor that only made matters worse.
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Old 12-01-2013, 10:31 PM   #6
Andrei Muresianu
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Re: Any experience with recovery from deep overtraining syndrome? Help...

Thank you for the responses, very appreciated.

For what it is worth, some perspective:

- An elimination diet does not mean calorie-restricted. It means you do not eat things like dairy and other foods people often react to to try and diagnose a food sensitivity that might be subclinical (not show up in a blood test).

I also dropped processed food like diet sodas and candy. I only ate “real food”: sweet potatoes, salmon, spinach, etc in a diet rich in lean meat, fruits, vegetables and healthy oils. It was annoying but I doubt it added stress…

- Eat some food, avoid failure, etc, yes, I know I went too far. Sometimes smart training is easier to say than do. After 15 years of training when six foot surgeries forced a two year break from sports I love… the mind starts to play games and getting stronger and leaner on paper made it easy to justify working through the fatigue… until the crash.

The question is not what could have been done better but if some sort of metabolic/adrenal/central nervous system/other damage is done, what to do now? I like the advice to get my head in the right place for the body to follow… I am trying meditation and more… I am also enjoying the Ben Greenfield links, but let me know if anyone else has thoughts on recovery (supplements, doctors to see, etc…)?

- I really appreciate the advice - Thanks!
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Old 12-04-2013, 06:47 AM   #7
Glenn Plomchok
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Re: Any experience with recovery from deep overtraining syndrome? Help...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jordan Derksen View Post
I'll refrain from calling any of this 'advice' as I'm not a medical professional, what follows is just my experience through my own training journey.

Point #1: EAT SOME FOOD!!!!!
First thing that hits me is that you dieted down to 173? You must be nuts, at 6'4 healthy for you is 200-215. You had a good thing going with the weight you had. I'm 6'2, I've fought for every pound; what I can say is as my bodyweight (and yes far levels) have gone up I have balanced out more mentally and I recover better from workouts. For the love of all that's holy quit the paleo nonsense and eat some freaking food. You're not overtrained, you're under recovered. For you to diet down would mean some intense changes in your food macros. I bet if you add 2-4 cups of rice, some more red fatty meats, and pounded a bit more nuts or oils to your daily intake your problem would begin to disappear very quickly. A good friend of mine is the same height as me, he was around 210-215. One year before regionals he dieted down to 190 or so because he thought being lighter would make him faster. He had his worst regionals ever. He was totally wasted. The next year he bounced back up to a healthy weight and he took second.

Likely you have done metabolic damage and it's going to take time to bounce back.

Point #2: Stop working out to failure on everything, ESPECIALLY functional movements with barbell weight. This is my experience so before ya'll jump in with some study I'm not even saying this is exercise fact, I'm just saying it's worked for me. The only thing you should go to failure on is isolated single joint light weight bodybuilder style movements. When you fail regularly on heavy barbell movements regularly you leave your CNS in the toaster way too long and turn it up to 10. From my experience following cf style programming RM doesn't ever freaking mean RM if you want to make progress. I spent a long time going 100% hitting maxes all the time and never got anywhere. It was until I backed it up and found a real strength program (it doesn't have to be complicated, simple is better) and progressed naturally by using training to elicit a response not as a constant test of my fitness. 5x5 Back squats does not mean 5 sets of 5 with every set to failure I'm gonna go balls out because crossfit rocks yaaa! It's volume work. Stick around 80-90%. Currently I'm doing my 5x5 days at a weight that's 10lb heavier than a weight I've back squatted 20 times in one set. Know what? It's working. Remember that in the gym you are training. Your training today for tomorrow. For next week. For next year. That means if you feel like crap you take a light week even if your max is still going up. In a recent olympic lifting cycle I did I hit over my 1RM Snatch on the last week of a 3 week heavy training cycle. It makes no sense but it happened. Fortunately I learned from my mistakes and I took my 4th week as light anyways because I know that I'm training to elicit a response and then backing off to bounce back. Hit some PR's? Great! Back off, recover, and go higher. Don't just keep going.

I'll leave you with 2 examples, and this is my understanding of his training so I could be wrong, but I've listened to every barbell shrugged episode with him. Rich Froning probably has the highest bodyfat out of the male competitors, at 5'9 he's at least 20lb heavier than you. Go eat some food. Also, from my understanding Rich almost never goes to failure. All of the work I've seen him do on video he gets in for overall volume, not for highest intensity. Snatches? Ya he'll do 15 minutes EMOTM at 185lb for power snatches (at the time that was 65% of his max) and wave up and down depending on feel. Power Cleans? Same thing. Weighted Pull-ups, Bench Press? Ya 5x5 at a reasonable weight. Everything he does is moderated based on feel and I would guess he spends all his time in the 70-90% range. The percentages don't really matter, he never sits around with a calculator, he just knows what medium and heavy feel like.

Rant over.

Edit: forgot to answer this. I've heard from a guy who went through something similar that it can take a full year to really bounce back. I would suggest still doing movements but put the barbell away, do only bodyweight for a few months. And for the love of all that's holy don't go to failure every time on every set. Also, time off is not bad. Top Olympic Weightlifters (Ilya Ilyin) will take a full year off training to recover after an Olympics. And that's an Olympic athlete. Average Joe can take time off, you won't waste away.
Jordan - that was great. I have been preaching to my wife to stop looking at her abs (they do look great for a 41 year old mother of two ) and just eat and then eat some more. She is small and wants to get stronger and works REALLY hard but I keep insisting she is not going to reap any benefits due to her inability to eat to the point of actually putting on some weight and feeding her body/muscles. It frustrates me to no end...going to copy and paste this for her to read. I also like your comments about picking a good load and doing 5x5's. What I like most about this approach is you don't get overly sore if you do it right. I am working back up on all of my barbell work due to a disc injury and I can tell you even though I am not lifting nearly what I was, I am able to add every week and I don't get sore...I am able to feel good during every session which is what I want. Again, thanks for the post.
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Old 12-08-2013, 10:57 PM   #8
Robert Fabsik
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Re: Any experience with recovery from deep overtraining syndrome? Help...

How much fat are you eating? Fat is essential for cholesterol and that streams to testosterone.

A lot of guys who go paleo, wind up cutting down their carbs (less refined stuff), then start feeling fatigued and when you do that you need to compensate with fat or for the paleo people--paleo friendly carbs.

Also, you might want to look in HRV monitoring (heart rate variability) or just take your pulse every morning upon waking. Track that with how you feel. That would be a rough gauge of your training state.

Exercise wise, I'd do a lot of light recovery stuff. Easy walks, light swims, maybe a light jog. If pulse doesn't go up, then start ramping up slowly.
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