Overtraining, Part 3: Taking Corrective Action And Returning Successfully To Training
In the final part of this three-part presentation on all aspects of overtraining, you will learn tips for returning to training with a refreshing new outlook and approach, how to heal, and how to ensure that this never happens again!
As you will hear, the key is adopting a new process—a fully intuitive approach. Yes, this entails “listening to your body” but it also means applying high-level reasoning and critical thinking to your training decisions. This includes being able to recognize when you occasionally need to back off—even when you’re feeling great—and learning how to emphasize recovery as the centerpiece of your training program, instead of letting it be an afterthought, (listen to my podcast with Joel Jamieson for more details).
An important element of this approach is minimizing chronic post-exercise muscle soreness, as this is a definite sign that you have been pushing beyond your current capabilities and/or have functional weaknesses and imbalances that can be addressed by adding new exercises to your regimen. You will also learn how to determine when it’s time to return to training when you are chomping at the bit and why you should stay away from establishing arbitrary timelines to what is a very delicate process—rejuvenating your mind and body after burnout.
Part one and part two covered stress response in the body and discussed the symptoms of over-reaching. [02:24]
A variation in beat-to-beat intervals is representative of being rested, having a strong cardiovascular system and a healthy sympathetic to parasympathetic balance. [04:13]
Don’t over-train. Use your motivation, discipline, resilience to make good decisions. [06:00
It takes many, many years of experience to learn the hard way about applying that intuition into your stress/rest balance of daily life. [08:44]
You may over-train and get exhausted. The first step is psychological acceptance. “Okay, I screwed up.” Then do not pinpoint an arbitrary time to return to action [09:36]
There may come a time when you have to reevaluate your goals. You may learn it is time to give up and pursue other activities. Your extra time can be devoted to extra sleep as a payback on the sleep debt you have accumulated over the past years. [12:58]
Functional medicine is an avenue you might want to explore. [14:50]
Exercise can wait until you really are passionate about returning rather than getting back because you think you “should”. When you do start out, do half effort. [18:35]
The basic principles of the Primal Blueprint are: move frequently at a slow pace, lift heavy things and sprint once in a while. [20:19]
If you feel crappy after a “good” workout, you probably overdid it. Muscle soreness is a sign that you overdid it. [25:44]
The over-training pattern can truly be career ending and when you are a chronically overtrained athlete, you are shortening your lifespan. [29:46]
It is important to remember, if you are struggling, that the genetic differences we have are profound and some people can simply tolerate more stress than others. [36:10]
Just aspire to do your best. [39:52]
- Primal Endurance Mastery course (FREE bag of Whey Protein Superfuel if you sign up for the full course, just email us!)
- Brad Kearns.com
- Brad’s Shopping page
- Primal Health Coach.com
- Nourish Balance Thrive
- Podcast with Chris Kelly
- Big Book of Endurance Training
- Podcast with Craig Marker
- Podcast with Phil Maffetone
- The Primal Blueprint
- Podcast with Joel Jamieson
- Running on Empty
- One Running Shoe
- The Weight of Gold
- “When you’re deciding how to train, take what your body gives you each day and don’t try to force more.”
Welcome to the Return of the Primal Endurance Podcast. This is your host, Brad Kearns, and we are going on a journey to a kinder, gentler, smarter, more fun, more effective way to train for ambitious endurance goals. Visit primal endurance.fit to join the community and enroll in our free video course.
Hello, and welcome to part three of the three part presentation on Over Training. We have to keep talking about this. Yes, because it’s super important. It might be unpleasant, but we gotta get this thing handled so it doesn’t keep rearing its ugly head into your best laid plans. So, to recap what we talked about in part one and part two, and then we’re gonna jump into part three with the emphasis on how to not have it happen in the first place. And then how to recover and return to action wiser and more resilient for your future athletic ambitions. So in part one, we covered the stress response in the body and how it works. What stress really is, is actually stimulus. We talk about stress in a negative context, but stress can be either positive or negative, and it comes in so many forms, not just pounding the pedals or, uh, running uphill on the trail.
We have all those stress factors in hectic, high-stress, modern life, and they all have to be weighted together as you strive for stress/rest balance. So when you consider your workouts a great stress release from a hectic day at the office, it is on a certain level, but they’re also two disparate forms that are still stressed to the body, still stimulus to the body, and provoke a stress response. We also talked about what is an appropriate stimulation of the wonderful fight or flight response that we have genetically hardwired. And this is to elevate our function in every way for occasional, uh, perceived life or death circumstances where we want to summon peak performance and the disturbing contrast between what our genes expect for health and the chronic nature of stress in modern life, and how we can easily abuse these very, very delicate hormonal and genetic mechanisms that are collectively called the fight or flight response.
Then we got into part two and we got down and dirty with a list of symptoms, and we had two different categories or lists, and the first list was the symptoms of overreaching. And that term conveys the period of time where you’re in high stress behavior patterns, high stress workout patterns, but your functioning actually optimally because of the chronically high production of the stress hormones blowing through your bloodstream. So you feel great, you’re energized you’re listening to how your body feels, and yes, you go and hammer again another day. But this is where we have to bring the intuitive element of decision making into the process and realize that perhaps we are tempting impending doom when we are in that fleeting state of overreaching. And after we cover those symptoms, we got into the symptoms of full-blown over-training. Burnout, all of the obvious stuff.
You don’t feel like exercising. Your workout performance is terrible, your immune function is suppressed, and so you’re suffering from who knows what. All kinds of things like, uh, autoimmune inflammatory conditions basically break down burnout, illness, injury, fallen apart, and sometimes coming as a surprise because that overreaching really tricks your brain into thinking that you’re becoming a superstar. You’re recovering from your workouts, everything feels great, you’re not sore, and this is all due to this chronic overproduction of stress hormones. You’re delivering a chronic low-grade inflammation to your muscles so your muscles feel supple and strong because they’re inflamed, which is what you want when you’re performing a workout. But you do not want this to be triggered day after day, week after week. So it’s super important to understand all those symptoms, understand the distinction between overreaching and over-training, and really focus on some of the, the key, the the most important metrics.
And, up there high ranked on the list these days are heart rate variability and people are getting, uh, really into that. It’s becoming widespread adoption of this, uh, technology where you’re measuring the, uh, balance between your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system function by way of measuring in EKG fashion, the beat to beat intervals in your heartbeat. And a metro, a metronomic heartbeat is associated with, uh, high stress pattern and a greater variation in beat to beat intervals is representative of being rested, having a strong cardiovascular system and a healthy sympathetic to parasympathetic balance. Of course, the MAF test is a huge one for endurance athletes especially, and that’s where you time your performance on a consistent course. So you’re doing the same test every time. For example, running eight laps around a running track and timing yourself at your maximum aerobic function, heart rate as close as possible, maintaining a heart rate for the test of 180 minus your age in beats per minute.
And when that MAF test gets slower, this is an indication of overreaching. And this can actually happen even while you are in the midst of a string of wonderful peak performance where you’re going to the race on the weekend, you’re going all out, you’re performing well. And then when you try to perform a sub max test, which is the maximum aerobic function test, it’s very non strenuous because 180 minus your age in beats per minute, it indicates an aerobic pace. So you’re just jogging around the track and your time is slower than usual. That’s when you really gotta think, Hey, I’m looking at a red flag here, even though I just had a great race. And that’s the part where the intuition comes into play really strongly. And we’re gonna emphasize that as we transition into the content in part three here.
So the number one tip to recover from over-training is don’t let it fricking happen in the first place. Use your motivation, focused discipline, resilience to make good decisions, rather than just being so proud of your ability to unleash your competitive intensity at any time. And the population that I’m speaking to, the people that have those lofty competitive goals that are interested in balancing a devoted training program into a busy, hectic life and managing family time and career with your own competitive goals, these are peak performers of the planet. Uh, thank you for listening to the show. Congratulations on having all those success factors. But also please recognize that those success factors can also be your undoing. So an intuitive approach to training entails going a step further than just relying on how you feel, which we are always told that, Hey, if you feel tired or your knee hurts, you should back off.
Hey, great, congratulations. My dog knows the same thing, right? When my dog gets hot, uh, she stops running and lays down on the side of the trail or jumps into the water. So we’re, um, we’re, we’re more sophisticated than that animal instinct. So we have to blend that animal instinct. Of course, we pay attention to it, but also we have this unique ability to reason, problem solve and ponder “what if” future scenarios. For example, a lot of young runners will head off to high altitude training camp, high school teams do it, college teams do it, and they get away from, uh, the particulars and the busyness of dalene life. And then they go and focus on training. They get up every morning, they run, they run in the afternoon, they sit around the campfire, they can’t wait till the next day’s run, and they go put in three weeks of extraordinary training up in the mountains, feeling great, breathing that fresh air, getting fit and dropping excess body fat.
And this in itself, this training camp scenario, is a high stress situation, a high stimulatory environment because the training level has escalated so much from general everyday life. So oftentimes what happens is you return from this camp, you’re pumped up, and you want to keep going at this escalated training level while you resume your busy, hectic and more distracted daily life. So the intuitive approach applied here is to finish your training camp and then give yourself some well-deserved rest rather than just tapping into that competitive instinct and going and going and going. Notice that you are running on fumes on an artificial and very exciting high shout out to my childhood friend at longtime listener Dr. Steven, who was up on his wedding day at 4:30 AM putting in his five-mile run before his day got incredibly busy. He’s like, oh, I wasn’t tired.
I felt fine. Of course not. You’re on your wedding day, you’re on the greatest artificial, exciting high ever. So people, uh, take note because it takes many, many years of experience to learn the hard way about applying that intuition into your stress/rest balance of daily life. And it goes against, uh, your pleasure seeking nature and your desire to accomplish more and more and more, and even feeling great throughout it all. It’s very important to back off and say, Hey, I’ve put in some good work and I’m going to wait it out and do some, uh, well deserved rest. Okay? So, I know it’s a lot to ask to walk away from your passion. You come home from that high altitude training camp, you’re more excited than ever to keep going, but this is how you avoid the dark and scary and mysterious spiral downward into the pits of over-training.
Okay? So let’s say you’ve bombed out and you’re having a tough time, and now you have extra time to listen to a podcast cuz you don’t feel like exercising, you’re injured, you’re battling illness or you’re just exhausted. Uh, the first thing to do as we aspire to heal someday is psychological acceptance. Okay, I screwed up <laugh>. Maybe I had bad luck. A lot of athletes will blame their preschool kids that they brought home a cold, and that’s why they got struck down with eight weeks of, uh, bronchitis turning into pneumonia. Yeah, right? Okay. But just accept that you’re in this place. It’s not ideal. Um, it’s part of the deal a lot of times when you’re pushing the envelope and it’s just an opportunity for further learning and personal growth. Then the, the second important along the same lines is to not pinpoint an arbitrary time to return to action.
You have to be very patient and realize that it’s kind of out of your hands and it’s going to reveal your body and your mind will reveal when you’re ready to return. And there’s nothing you can do to force it. And it’s especially bad idea to say, I need a month off. I am going to start training hard again on November 1st. That is going to make matters worse in many ways. So instead, you are going to walk away until further notice. It’s like someone who’s burnt out at the law firm and they need a break. And so they get their autorespond email and say, I’m out of the office until further notice, huh? What <laugh> right? That’s gonna be you with your training. At the same time, take this wonderful opportunity to cultivate other passions and build other aspects of your personality. Believe me, in the long run, it will make you a better athlete, a better competitor, a more well-adjusted, happy, balanced person.
And so teaching yourself that you can indeed step away, uh, that’s a wonderful thing. My good friend, uh, my former training partner, Don Weaver, national Amateur Triathlon Champion, uh, 15 years ago today, he passed tragically, but I think about him all the time. And one of the things I think about, he was a very direct person, and he would always give me the straight scoop. And when I announced to him that I was fallen apart and had had it psychologically, physically, and mentally with my triathlon endeavors and that, and that I was going to retire from my professional career, he said, no, I don’t think you can. You’re so deep into this. All your friends, your life revolves around it. It’s your career. You have your sponsors, your contracts, you can’t retire. You’re, you’re stuck. And so I wanted to prove him right by saying, Hey, I’m over it.
I’m out. And I just bailed instantly and never did another race that was back in, uh, 1995. So, uh, thanks for the prompting <laugh> Don Dewey Weaver. Okay? Um, but cultivating other passions and moving on with your life is a really, uh, wonderful thing to do, especially to ensure that you don’t get back into this deep hole, which possibly not naming any names here, but possibly was caused or driven by your obsession with peak performance in this narrowly focused passion of what you have. I’ve talked about triathletes a little bit, but we can put this out to, uh, the CrossFit enthusiast who’s had a perfect attendance at the gym and their gold star by their name because they’ve attended more workouts or people at the health club who are, you know, diehard regulars at that 6:00 AM spin class, and all of a sudden they don’t feel like going anymore.
So, uh, find other stuff to do, uh, during this free time, if you will, you have extra time in your schedule. You know, what’s one good thing to devote it to is getting extra sleep. So it’s time to pay back on your sleep and energy and recovery debt that you have accumulated over the past year, two years, five years, 10 years, whatever it is. And that’s a wonderful way for the body to balance out. It might not make sense to you right away or on the surface when you think, gee, I always sleep seven and a half hours per night and I have done so in the for, for decades, and now all of a sudden you need nine. This is the body’s way and the brain’s way of recharging, rejuvenating, refreshing, and recovering. Um, here’s my story from my triathlon career As soon as the season was over, and I came home from that last race, and usually my off season was from December and then re resuming again in late April, and I would take off December and, you know, get started back with training in January.
I didn’t have the luxury of taking more time off, but in that month of December, let me tell you, um, I would sleep usually 12 hours every night because I was so exhausted from all the jet travel, all the racing, and I could easily sleep to 10, 10:30 AM And the only reason I got out of bed is because I felt disgusted that I was still in bed at 10 or 10:30 AM but for that month, sometimes six weeks after the season, that’s when my body and brain needed that recharge and needed that tremendous extra chunk of sleep when I was already sleeping a ton. As I’ve mentioned many times on the podcast, I already slept an average of 10 hours a night throughout my career and a two hour nap every day. So extra sleep. And find out what that means to you naturally by allowing yourself to go to bed early and, and wake up later because you’re not squeezing in all these crazy workouts.
Another, important factor here is to look into the world of functional medicine. Our first response in Western society is to go head to the doctor when our workouts are getting slower and we’re not feeling great. Uh, we have a knee injury or a sore throat or whatever, and that’s great if you have actual disease patterns and need, uh, medical intervention. But there’s a whole other level here to investigate, and it’s widely, uh, called functional medicine or alternative or progressive healthcare. The chiropractic community is very strong in this area where besides doing the chiropractic adjustments, they look into your nutritional patterns. And there’s all kinds of an exploding industry these days, which is so wonderful, including health coaches like primal health coach.com. You can look at their website and find a, a trained coach in the primal living approach, the, the comprehensive approach to primal living in your area.
And so what we’re looking for is people that have expertise outside of traditional Western disease, uh, intervention, uh, prescription medication and surgery, things of that nature to someone who can help you with your, uh, possible B vitamin deficiency from advanced blood tests or your cortisol patterns when you do the salivary cortisol tests from special laboratory. And these people have brought many people back to life and actually transformed many lives because now people embrace this holistic perspective. It’s also called holistic medicine. So instead of just, uh, being the athlete who, uh, trains hard and hits the fast food in the evening, you start to open your mind to, uh, all kinds of, uh, other contributing factors to your athletic success. And as I talked about in my multi-part, uh, presentation about my diet over the years, uh, as a young athlete, uh, getting injured and sick over and over again on the college running team, I had to open my perspective to, uh, contemplate the importance of healthy eating and other healthy lifestyle practices, rather than just how many miles per week I was running.
Okay? It’s very likely as an overtrained athlete that you have a shit-ton of dysfunction that can be identified and treated in the functional medicine realm, even though you might head off to the doctor or get your annual physical and annual blood test and they’ll say, Hey, you are a, a fine, healthy, athletic specimen. Everything in your blood looks great and you have a clean bill of health. Okay, that’s fine. You have an absence of disease. But we are gonna look deeper at potential nutritional deficiencies, probably leaky gut syndrome, which is so common among hard heavy training athletes because the digestive system is so sensitive to athletic stress, especially, especially when you, uh, elevate your body temperature workout for long periods of time. That is, in essence, you’re giving yourself leaky gut every time you do, uh, a workout, especially in high temperatures. And things can start to get rough, especially if you, uh, eat with indiscretion.
Nourish Balance Thrive.com. My main man, Chris Kelly, has a wonderful operation over there where you can take a short quiz found off the homepage and it will predict, it will guess, uh, of some of the dysfunction that you might have by answering your questions. And you can plunge further into their wonderful consultation program. Chris himself is a recovering, burnt out, high level, uh, cycling racer in cycle, cross and road cycling at the highest level. Cat one, cat two. And, uh, he now helps other athletes, especially athletic and fitness minded people turn things around with that big picture perspective. And I believe I covered some of these matters on my show with Chris Kelly, which you can find in the archives of the B.rad podcast and certainly on my numerous shows with Dr. Tommy Wood, uh, Chris’s former associate at Nourish Balance Thrive.
But it, you, it’s time to open your mind. If you’re overtrained and burnt out, there’s all kinds of other things that you can optimize that you might not have been thinking about enough. Okay, so returning to exercise, my suggestion, my strong suggestion is to wait until you are chomping at the bit to get back out there. If you don’t have that tremendous urge to lace up your shoes and head back out to your favorite forest loop if you’re a runner, or to go back to the gym and do the workout, you wait, you wait, you wait until that passion rekindles in a very authentic sense. And then when you are chomping at the bit, you finally give yourself permission to start out. And when you do resume training, you start out at half effort. So half speed, half duration, just half everything and see how you feel because it’s very easy to get fooled.
Once you head back into training, you start to get excited, you start to release dopamine. Remember, that’s the anticipatory neurotransmitter. We call it the reward neurotransmitter, but it’s more accurately associated with anticipation and motivation to go get a future reward. So even the idea of returning to training can excite you and jack you up and make you feel more energetic. But you can easily get fooled, especially when you go out there and produce some stress hormones from your first workout in several weeks and you get that endorphin rush and you declare yourself back all the way cuz you had a great workout. But you might have a rebound, crash and burn experience because you’re not truly and totally restored and recovered. Um, you can learn so much on this topic of toning it down a little bit and, and a kinder gentle approach, especially to high intensity or extreme endurance training from my shows with Dr. Craig Marker,
Dr. Phil Maffetone and his book, the Big Book of Endurance Training in Racing. Mark Sisson and I have talked about this so much and written about it so much. Think about the original three Primal Blueprint fitness laws as conveyed in the, uh, the first release of the Primal Blueprint. And these are move frequently at a slow pace, lift heavy things and sprint once in a while. These are our genetic expectations for health. It says nothing in our genetic DNA n a coding to prepare for the CrossFit games or prepare for a marathon. In fact, these modern athletic endeavors are in extreme conflict with our genetic expectations for health. Again, we like to move around frequently at a slow pace. So that would be below MAFheart rate. If you’re doing endurance training, the vast majority of your exercise should be at that comfortable heart rate.
And then we like to do brief explosive efforts that are short induration and high intensity. So that would be sprinting and strength training. But these hybrid workouts, or I call them blended workouts, and I talk a lot about this in the Primal Endurance book and on the Primal Endurance, uh, video course, this is where we can get into trouble because it, uh, prompts an overly stressful pattern of training. What I’m talking about is a quote unquote high intensity workout that lasts for a long time and asks you again and again to deliver explosive effort even as you experience cumulative fatigue and breakdown and glycogen depletion. And so this, I’m sorry, but it pretty much characterizes the typical modern fitness template and modern fitness programming. So if you think of a Peloton workout, what a wonderful home exercise sensation. And you’re going down there for whatever the duration of the workout, 45 minutes and doing a series of sprints and more sprints, or you’re going to the health club and getting the peppy instructor to take you through a, a bootcamp or a bar class or a spinning class.
And generally speaking, in my opinion, these workouts are wonderful in so many ways, but they last a little bit too long for the average person to the extent that if you do them frequently, it can put you into this over-training pattern. And so if you’re doing anything that’s can be conveyed as high intensity, you want to curtail the workout to well under an hour, probably a half an hour would be much better for you. Unless you’re training for the Olympics or at the elite level and in, in a, you know, a very focused, organized, regimented program, you’re a collegiate athlete, whatever you gotta do what you gotta do, um, to, to, to score the points for your team or to, to get the professional contract. But the vast majority of people go hard and go home. Okay? So going hard, extremely important for health, peak performance, fitness, anti-aging.
But generally speaking, your cumulative high intensity efforts might only last a few minutes and you can have as extremely beneficial and fitness boosting workout. I talk about my sprinting template so often here where for running it would be four to eight times 80 meters with a minute rest between these 10 to 15 to 22nd efforts. So if you’re even going all the way out to the maximum recommendation of eight times 20 seconds, that’s only 160 seconds, that’s less than three minutes of true high-intensity sprinting for a fantastic workout and then run screaming away from anything that has even the slightest sniff, uh, of being termed to be chronic. I had Dave Scott on the show, the Ironman legend six time champion of the Hawaii Ironman is still a very prominent coach in the triathlon world. And he says that he counsels his athletes to avoid those workouts that could be characterized as quote unquote kind of hard.
So kind of hard is a very, very rare occasion you wanna stay away from. You either want to go really hard on a short duration workout, like a sprint workout I just described, or you want to go at that aerobic heart rate. It’s called polarized training. Uh, Dr. Steven Seiler, American research physiologist based in Norway, has published a lot of information about this polarized training concept where you’re either going nice and comfortable, or you’re hitting it hard and, and prompting these desired hormonal adaptations like the spike of adaptive hormones in the bloodstream after a properly conducted high intensity training session. I had Joel Jameson on the podcast where he talked about his recovery based training for his MMA athletes, including some world champions where recovery is the central focus of the training program rather than slamming yourself. And this guy has been a prominent figure in, especially in the MMA scene and now in the general training scene for his novel ideas.
He’s a huge pioneer in the H R V uh, category where he’s been using it for decades. This technology, uh, to determine, uh, that certain workouts perform correctly. He calls them rebound workouts, actually speed recovery in comparison to just sitting around and engaging in total rest. Really interesting. But his fighters, he, um, got a little controversy when he first started in this game cuz he said, Hey, you guys spar too much. It’s stupid. You’re tying yourself out for the fights you should be doing a more appropriate training where you don’t have to spar constantly and you just prepare in other ways where your body’s building and building and getting stronger rather than breaking down from getting in a fight <laugh> five days a week at the gym or whatever. Okay? So I think you, get a good sense of the importance of a kinder, gentler approach where you’re really being careful.
You’re conducting intensity under strict parameters very properly. And if you’re in the endurance scene, you are very strict and disciplined in minimizing those heart rates to the math heart rate or below during your endurance workouts. And I have to admit, here I am at 57, I’ve been training hard for, oh my gosh, that’s over 40 years now since I was a high school runner. And I’m still somewhere positioned on this learning curve because I love to get out there, challenge my body, set lofty goals, perform magnificent athletic feats, and film them and publish them on social media. I love unleashing that competitive intensity as a wonderful balance to the other sedate and indulgent and luxurious factors that characterize modern life. But guess what? It’s so easy to get carried away when you get out there and that hour of power when I’m hitting it hard at the track and doing more jumps than I should, because I’m so devoted to improve my technique and I want to do a few more, and then maybe a few more after that, my high intensity effort becomes a three day ordeal rather than a one hour workout.
In other words, I left too much at the track, and I feel that the next morning when I wake up and my calves are stiff and my back is stiff and my glutes are locked up again and I have to wait patiently because I pushed it beyond my current capabilities and have prompted, uh, additional recovery time. What’s one way to determine whether you overdid it, if you feel like crap at rest during, uh, the, during the workday, the, the following day. So let’s say 12 hours, 24, 48 hours after some of these epic workouts that we love to perform. If you feel lousy just walking around, that’s an indication that you overdid it. If you have recurring muscle soreness, you are asking your body to perform a little bit more than it’s capable of. I’m not talking about occasional muscle soreness where, hey, you lifted weights all winter, you go out to your first water ski session of the summer and you can’t even put your shirt on the next day.
That’s because you’re doing an unfamiliar activity. But if you’re going and doing a typical workout pattern and you’re typically sore, that’s a big problem. And I’m gonna raise my hand and say, dang, you know, I have too much muscle soreness in my life, and I’m trying very, very hard to mitigate that to where I can perform these workouts and not be sore the next day. Then I have a big smile on my face and say, I still accomplished a lot, but I didn’t overdo it. And honestly, with my sprint workouts, it’s taken probably a decade to where I can announce proudly into my microphone. Now that I can do my typical difficult, challenging sprint workout, it might be, um, sets of 200 meter sprints. It might be 400, 300, 200, 100 might be three, three hundreds, four two hundreds, five, 100 s things that I do for my goals and track and field, disparate from what I recommend to the average exerciser of doing those shorter sprints.
But I have to prepare for my competitive goals, right? I can finally say that I can do a template workout and the next morning not feel sore, but it has taken 10 years. Ah, ah, and that didn’t happen when I was younger. So you younger listeners don’t worry about that. But if you’re trying to build skills, uh, in the older athletic age groups, you have to be very, very patient and not prompt chronic muscle soreness. This is an indication that your protein synthesis, your recovery of your muscles is being reallocated to muscle repair rather than muscle strengthening because the muscle tissue has been damaged, right? And so you gotta handle the emergency first before your muscles can think about, uh, getting stronger, faster, more explosive. That’s a little bit of an oversimplification. So if a scientist wants to take me to task, but I’m giving this valid general idea that muscle soreness is a, a sign that you overdid it and you need further recovery, whereby you could be more consistent and perhaps get out to the track sooner and accumulate more quality efforts if you were smarter about your training.
And I mentioned those articles about the elite athletes that got into extreme overtraining so frequently, uh, my mom, the, the times stamper and the link finder has, um, uh, saved on a separate document, uh, the titles of the articles were Running on Empty and One Running Shoe in the Grave. So this is nothing to scoff at or to discount because, uh, the over-training pattern can truly be career ending. There may be no coming back from, uh, the extreme over-training patterns, especially if they’re, uh, recurrent, no funny business. Not only that, uh, you are literally compressing your lifespan rather than extending it. When you are a chronically overtrained athlete, you are shortening your lifespan. And I will contend, uh, during my years on the professional triathlon circuit, that was from ages 21 to age 30, that’s right, I retired when I was 30, broken down and beat up.
And I felt 80 figuratively when I woke up in the morning as a 30 year old athlete because I had so many aches and pains and stiffnesses, I couldn’t even put weight on my right foot until I hobbled out to the jacuzzi to stick my foot in the jets and deal with this chronic extreme plantar faciitis. I had suppressed immune function, I had suppressed endocrine function, suppressed hormone function. So I contend that that decade on the triathlon circuit most likely aged me in a literal sense in the literal cellular quantum physical sense. Like Deepak Chopra talks about, probably aged me 15 or 20 years. So I doubled the rate of aging during that 10-year stint traveling around the globe like a crazy business traveler, but also hitting it hard and pedaling and sprinting and swimming in foreign bodies of water and just mixing it up on the pro circuit.
And I’m sorry to say, in many ways, this is the price that you have to pay to make those incremental improvements to excel at the highest level of athletics. When you’re looking at the Olympic athletes, the professional athletes, they are definitely making an inherent trade off between general health and longevity and present day peak performance. For most of us, and even for the elite athletes listening, you wanna strive to do it as intelligently and as less destructively is possible. So that’s what we’re talking about here. So whatever the nature of your competitive goals, if they’re super lofty, hey, um, you know, deal with it and get a lot of sleep. And if they’re just trying to balancance, you know, stressful modern life with some fun and excitement, you can do it in a really smart way where your athletic pursuits by and large promote health and longevity rather than compromise it.
And I’m gonna put myself in that category today because of course, I’m not doing these crazy endurance feats anymore and my workouts, even though I get a little sore, hey, um, I’m building my explosiveness, I’m preserving my balance. I have those competitive goals that keep me fresh and excited not only for athletic goals, but for all different goals in my life. My body composition, my diet, all these things are dialed thanks to sensible and age appropriate athletic goals. And I must say, what is super awesome to see in modern elite level athletics is I believe the athletes are much smarter and more sensible today than they were back in my time. That goes for all the major professional sports, uh, the track and field athletes. They’re doing something right, uh, not only because the records continue to escalate in, in many cases.
Um, some of the records are still sticking around, which is pretty awesome. Uh, on a side note as well, uh, the high jump record is now 30 years old for both, uh, males and females somewhere around 30 years old. And I’m not talking about the drug tainted records from the Eastern block times where the, the female 800 meter record is from 1983 at one minute, 53 seconds, widely regarded to be fueled by the, uh, systematic doping of the Eastern block. But I’m talking about, boy, there were guys a long time ago Hicham El Guerrouj, the greatest middle distance runner of all time, still has the mile record from 1997, 25 years at three minutes, 43. So we had these exceptional athletes back then, but generally, I think, by and large you’re seeing N F L athletes, n b a athletes with longer careers, uh, less chronic injuries, definitely less breakdown after their careers are over.
And even in sprinting in the Olympics where everyone widely believed that sprinting was a young person’s game, you have people like Usain Bolt, Elaine Thompson, and Shellyann Frazier Price, the Jamaicans with very long and successful careers still going strong. Uh, Elaine Thompson and Shellyann Frazier Price had the best season of their careers last year, both in their thirties. They’ve been around forever. Justin Gatlin, the Great American sprinter, made the Olympic final in the 100 meters at age 39, and he won Olympic or World Championship medals over a decade apart, a fantastic duration. He finally retired from elite competition at age 40, but boy, when a guy at 39 is one of the fastest eight athletes in the world, you know, he’s doing something right. The endurance athletes the same. I give tremendous credit to the Brownley Brothers from Great Britain for dominating the sport of triathlon at the Olympic distance for over a decade.
This guy, Christian Blumenthal from Norway, uh, won the Olympic gold medal in Tokyo last year. He repeatedly trains for seven hours a day. He’s just a machine out there cranking and getting to the most incredibly high fitness level that we couldn’t even imagine back then where these guys are racing a mile swim, biking 25 miles, and then getting off the bike and running a 29 minute 10k like a true track star. Uh, there’s a Swedish speed skating champion who won Olympic gold, and he said some popular YouTube videos where he explains that he just gets out there and trains for six hours every day, but it’s in a comfortably paced aerobic fashion. And he credits this type of training as nourishing and strengthening. And then of course, when you wanna win the gold in speed skating, like when Eric Haydn was winning those 5,000 meter 10,000 meters, they’re going very fast.
So they’re training, uh, very hard and doing some high intensity workouts. But to have that base of riding your bicycle for six hours day after day after day, and then applied to specific speed skating workouts, that’s pretty awesome that the athlete not only doesn’t break down, but just ascends to the highest level of aerobic conditioning where they can handle the high stress workouts that help make them Olympic champion.
Okay, that’s a lot to chew on, but I would like to end on another note where if you’re feeling sorry for yourself and you’re wondering why me, when you’ve plunged into this dismal over-training pattern, or it’s happened again and again, it’s important to understand that these genetic differences that we have are profound, and some people can simply tolerate more stress load in training and in daily life than other people, and there’s no explaining it.
You can do the best to optimize yourself and not look around and compare to others. Theodore Roosevelt said, comparison is the thief of joy, okay? And, I was someone that needed to hear that back when I was a triathlete because I simply couldn’t handle the typical volume of many of my competitors on the pro circuit. And I would get worn out trying to keep up with them in training and then feel sorry for myself and wonder why couldn’t I ride my bike and run and swim as far as these other guys I wanted just as badly. I’m just as focused. I’m just as devoted, but my body simply couldn’t handle it. And I had to learn the hard way to take matters into my own hands and do what was best for me without constantly comparing myself or trying to adhere to someone else’s recommended training schedule.
And the guy who was really invaluable in helping me embrace this, uh, mentality was Mark Sisson, my original coach, uh, way back in the eighties when I was racing on the pro circuit. I was a young athlete on the pro circuit and he became my coach in Los Angeles and would constantly hammer home these points that I had to trust myself, focus on myself, focus on breakthrough workouts rather than the consistent application of exercise stress day after day after day. Just focus on doing your best workouts once in a while. And that’s how you get fitter. You don’t have to be a machine, perhaps like the person that you’re training with and lamenting that you can’t handle it. And boy, then you get to this point where you’re doing the best you can and you’re seeing someone training harder than you and your competitive instinct says, I want to rise up to the next level and kick that person’s butt, or whatever, <laugh>, get on the podium, whatever your goal is.
And if it’s not in the cards for you, I, I, I asked this question of Phil Maffetone and I remember his memorable answer that he said. If you go to the marathon finish line and, and watch the people crossing the finish line, um, of course there’s variation in training patterns, but for people who are doing their very best and optimizing their physical potential, sometimes the difference in your finish time at the marathon is fricking genetics. And there’s nothing you can do about it. And so some of us listening might have to be content with finishing in the middle of the pack rather than aspiring to the podium and getting into that frustrating over-training pattern when you want to get more out of your body than his naturally there and ready and accessible. So, um, if you watch the documentary that was centerpiece with Michael Phelps, but it covered a lot of Olympic athletes and it was called the Weight of Gold, you can find it online.
They talked about the struggles and the frustrations and the depression and the serious mental health issues that many elite athletes suffer from in part due to their obsession with peak performance and, uh, evaluating and, and, and obsessing so highly, uh, on their journey that they have a difficult time adjusting to real life. For example, after the Olympics are over, they plunge into depression, and so forth. And it’s a pretty sobering account of the things that Olympic athletes deal with that are behind the scenes. They’ve been brought further to the scenes by this great documentary, as well as the struggles of Simone Biles in the Olympics, the gymnasts that kind of freaked out and had to pass on many events, even though she was widely considered to be the greatest of all time, and had that pressure heaped on her shoulders.
The tennis player, Naomi Osaka, who has been public with her mental health struggles that are affecting her tennis career. So, hey, you know what? Maybe just aspiring to do your best, not getting too caught up in comparison, accepting the genetic particulars that might be your limitations. Maybe that’s more healthy, well-adjusted way to approach sport than going for the gold, which is so glorified and dramatized and we’ve been programmed into our brain that that’s the ultimate. So, one of my favorite one-liners is to, when you’re deciding how to train, take what your body gives you each day and don’t try to force more. If you can adhere to that and honor that and be content with that, that’s gonna keep you out of those overtraining holes. I hope you enjoyed part three. Please listen to all of them, put it all together, and stay out of that overtraining club. Hope to see you out there performing magnificent athletic feats, enjoying it, challenging yourself, but being smart and sensible at all times. Thanks for listening.
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