While these are all great mantras and can help you push yourself when you are in a lul or fire you up to attack a PR (Personal Record) there is one mantra that outshines all of them that I like to keep highest on the priority list: “All things in moderation.”
From body image disorders to tri-athletes, cross-fitters to weekend warriors, and seekers of instant results; all can become a victim of the over training bug.
Time for an anecdote!
I have fallen victim to the over training bug many times in my life (No one is immune to its temptation.) Particularly when it has come to training my chest and my legs I have pushed well beyond reasonable and ended myself up in injury land that not only halted my progress in my training, but put me out for long enough to cause regression and make me lose gains I had.
Since tearing both my groin muscles 8 years ago, I have JUST now regained all the leg strength I had built up to, mostly due to the psychological effect that injury had on me.
So … How does one push to the brink of performance to make the best version of themselves without falling victim to over training?
1.) Safety: Practice safe gym techniques. From making sure you’re not sacrificing form for weight, always using the safety bars in the rage cage (These may save your groin muscles one day,) to having a smart spotter for exercises that could cause you harm if done incorrectly or if your muscles fail, these are all safety techniques that require little to no extra effort and will prevent you from injuring yourself and halting or regressing your progress from your own stupidity.
2.) Listen and Respond: Pain and discomfort are two completely different animals. Understanding the difference between the two can be key to preventing your next round with over training syndrome. Discomfort in the muscles as they stress to perform the exercises and general fatigue are the signs you are looking for. Discomfort in a joint on the other hand? That’s not the sign of “weakness leaving the body” that’s a sign of incorrect technique, load, or just a light injury that should be rested to prevent a more serious injury. As well, feeling PAIN in the muscle is the sign of a tear, at which point you are not increasing its effectiveness, you are literally destroying it.
3.) Rest IS a part of your Routine: Some folks just hate missing a day at the gym, even if their muscles are screaming at them. Something you should know, rest and recovery IS a component of your training. If we do not let our muscles rest, they do not grow, they do not become stronger. In fact, the exact opposite will happen from over training, you will consecutively tear the fibers so much that they never adapt and you can cause the medical affliction known as Rhabdomyolisis. That can mean one thing: Game over man, Game over.
So the take away here folks, is while you should push yourself, you should be exhausted by the end of a tough workout, but you must also understand and respect the physical limitations of your body. By not respecting them, you will not overcome them, they will break you. As Sun Tzu knew: Know thy enemy, know thy self. The parallel, know your body, know your limits.