It just so happened that my (in)famous Overtraining post was automatically retweeted and conversation in comments started. I've always thought that it would be best if a conversation could be had over my article and about Overtraining in general, as it seems that what I've written has both inspired people, but also made others feel bad or criticized (which was not my intention). If we can all talk about our experiences, and also some of the evidence and ways of describing things, then at the very least we are getting somewhere.
For those who have not read it, this is my original article:
And these are all the articles I've written on the subject:
Archive of Articles: Overtraining
This is the comment thread from today:
Gabriel: "My takeaway is that running and MT are not the same. Through running I have overtrained, resulting in injury, decreased immunity, and disrupted sleep patterns. CNS overtraining is also a thing.
I run barefoot for long distanCes up and down terrain, often off road. I am also a big guy. Sylvie is small so endurance events won’t be as hard on her body.
This whole piece seems rife with braggadacio. Just a log essay on how much tougher you are than the men who come through your gym."
My Response: "Hi Gabriel,
It’s unfortunate that you feel that a 12,000 word essay full of illustrative examples, some research into the history of Overtraining diagnosis, citations of extraordinary achievement by others and fight specific application is nothing more than me bragging on “toughness”. I really don’t think it’s about toughness at all, but rather that many very well intentioned, and probably quite “tough” people have a framework when thinking about their body and limitations that undermines them. They are taught to expect failure (the failure of their bodies) and when they experience failure they become very easily convinced that they have hit the wall that they have heard about, and maybe even experienced many times. They are stopped.
This article has been controversial, especially among those like you who feel convinced that they have experienced overtraining, so this reply goes beyond your comment and speaks to some larger issues too. As I’ve repeatedly said, this discussion isn’t about the experiences, it’s about the diagnosis, including diagnoses that speak to injury. Personally I am injured less, even as a very active fighter, when I train at my upper limits. It doesn’t mean I don’t get hurt, banged, dinged and am not regularly in pain, in fact I do and am. But I am never incapacitated, despite fighting 100 times in 3 years and training at an intense rate. It is my belief that my training (and my fighting) has hardened me, made me more resilient not only mentally but physically as well. Injury discussion is an interesting and important one though – one probably looked at on a case by case basis. But in so far as you have agreed that it is very likely that Muay Thai and long distance running are quite different, then perhaps you’ve taken more from my article than a laundry list of my toughness, because this was one of my points. Even if Overtraining is a real diagnosis, the application of its invention/discovery in ultrarunning to Muay Thai and other fighting arts is simply unfounded and unproven – weightlifting is another category of application that could be wrongly connected. And yes, as a small bodied person indeed I may be less affected than large bodied people, very true. I’ve also been told that it might be genetics, or even many other factors, but this does not mean that my own experiences of my mental limits, and resistance to the repeated admonition that I’m overtaining by various experts (both Thai and Western) are not of value to others seeking to overcome where they are at when they encounter similar barriers. My references to so many (men, but also women) who have come through my gyms have been really about detailing the kinds of thinking that will undermine you, even though you are very serious. It’s best to talk about specific examples not only because I need to qualify my position through what I have experienced and witnessed, but also so that people may recognize themselves in them. I really wrote this article, and others, for particular people. It’s for people who want to do MORE. If you are someone who wants to do more, I’m telling you you can. It might be a little more, it might be plateaus and plateaus beyond what you can even imagine. I’m frankly tired of people who make it their business to regularly tell people they can’t, they shouldn’t, they won’t. We have enough of those in the world. I believe in the Dan Gable adage, “More is More”.
Gabriel: I agree many people undertrain but overtraining is a thing regularly experienced by lots of athletes who often train many days a week. You are small and slight which I believe lessens your chance of overtraining. Running 10k for you is not the same experience as someone who weighs 80 kilos. For the latter much more tissue is damaged.
As for CNS overtraining in my experie ce the effects are a accute and occur after sprints, agility training, and plyometric type movements. If you go train wind sprints every day, at 100 percent effort, you will be overtrained. Try it. I’m talking maximal effort here.
But I running in general is more strenuous than MT, I believe. The nature of gravity deems it so. The stress of landing on runs, particularly off road and without padded shoes, causes more tissue damage than hitting a heavy bag and sparring.
Thai fighters are incredible in their ability to fight so many times but in the higher weight classes that ability is diminished. Again, your experiences as a small light fighter are very different from the experiences of a heavier person. So different that I doubt your ability to extrapolate.
I include Gabriel's comments here because they no doubt reflect what a lot of people think and feel. I realize that this is a very charged topic. They are hopefully a launch point. Not only do people have very real, and sometimes traumatic experiences of breaking down, and others feel very attached to some of the terminology and science-like renditions of what is supposedly happening to the body. I'm no expert, though I have read pretty deeply into the literature and arguments on both sides, some of which I put into the article. At the very least we can say that there is no definitive position of "truth" in this, and as athletes we are forced with finding a way forward in the context of the debate. All that I am doing here is sharing with you my own perspective, arrived at through some reading, but mostly which I have raised by pushing myself past real barriers to find out what was on the other side. I've also observed incredible feats by athletes whose bodies are very different from mine in countless ways, but are similarly pushed beyond what is deemed "impossible."
I'd like to know from you all what your experiences and thoughts are about Overtraining. Remember, keep it civil; an athlete's experience of their body is a highly personal thing, and anything we say that challenges that risks attacking the person themselves, which is not the point nor the gain.
Also, to keep on track of what I'm trying to say here it may be worth reading my followup article: