Podcast: Maffetone on Overtraining

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  • #55604

    Something that stood out was observation that athletes often put in an outstanding performance right before symptoms of overtraining set in. I just experienced this where my interval times for a standard hill I run went down with lower perceived exertion. (Then a week later, I started waking up at 3 AM completely alert–sure sign of OT.)
    The explanation offered was this was due to overstimulation of sympathetic nervous system. But for any athlete, feeling like a superman is obviously very attractive and the natural reaction is to keep improving (i.e., so increase intensity and duration even more). To counteract that, it would have been helpful to hear more on exactly what is going on here. And, it doesn’t feel consistent with assertion that sub-maximal efforts will decrease (mine improved).

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    Anonymous on #55742


    I don’t know what is going on to cause this superman feeling right before the wheels come off. I’ve studied OTS for decades and have yet to find anyone that can explain all the causes. Most of what I (and anyone who has studied it) can offer is observations of typical signs and symptoms.

    It’s just a guess based on seeing this play out many times but….my guess is that you feel like superman right before disaster strikes because you are at a new level of fitness and performance potential. The temptation is to pile on more training because of what you were doing got you this fit then surely doing more of it will make you even fitter, right? I don’t think so. In this situation your body is in a place it has never been (or at least for along time) in terms of performance potential. That is why I recommend dropping back in training load when you see this begin to happen.

    Your improving interval times with a drop in RPE seems totally consistent with what I have said above and talked about in the OTS podcasts with Phil and the other with Sam. It does not need to be improved maximal performance.

    I’m afraid this is the best I can do in terms of an ‘explanation.’


    Jon44 on #55749

    Thanks Scott, that’s very helpful (both hearing more about your experience and having a general framework to understand the phenomenon.)
    The double-edged sword of reaching a new performance potential rings particularly true (and matches experience I’ve had managing congenital joint issues–new levels of function have always come with new risks.)

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