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Overtraining = exercise addiction?

Old 09-11-19, 08:46 PM
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Dreww10
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Overtraining = exercise addiction?

As posted about previously, I've been down for nearly a year and a half with "overtraining," or more accurately, HPA Axis dysfunction. With more than enough time for self-reflection and research, I've come to realize that I was truly addicted to riding and to training. My volume and intensity weren't anything superhuman or even out of the ordinary, but it was essentially an obsession to not miss a ride, to get faster and stronger. I'd take setbacks and defeat harder than a hobbyist should. I even sometimes pushed to ride more miles than other people, even if I mentally wanted to go home and relax. Understanding now what addiction actually is -- a imbalance/downregulation of dopamine neurotransmitters in the brain -- it's easy to see how prolonged addiction to exercise (perhaps combined with other obsessions/addictions in life) could break ones brain down and in turn lead to chronic fatigue, ie. overtraining. In my case, detailed labs have shown no abnormalities, and my cortisol levels have been consistently normal. But cortisol is only 1/3 of the equation, as the brain makes up the other 2/3. It's for this reason why many people recover from OTS through the use of anti-depressants: they chemically help rebalance the brain.

Looking at this issue elsewhere on the internet, things seem to line overtraining up with people who obsess about their exercise moreso than overdoing it with volume/intensity. There's a personality type these people (and myself) all seem to share, and it's not of one that approaches their sport casually. If I was making assumptions, I'd say most suffer from varying degrees of anxiety, depression, and OCD.

Has anyone had experience with other athletes around them who have been addicted to exercise (be it aerobic, weightlifting, etc.) and seen it take a physical/mental toll?

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Old 09-12-19, 02:41 AM
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Most people don't exercise nearly enough to reach "overtraining".
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Old 09-12-19, 04:44 AM
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I've done too much more than a few times in my life... My approach to fitness and training has changed over the last few years and I don't annihilate myself like I used to...This" no pain no gain" dogma needs to die because it's not a good long term strategy.
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Old 09-12-19, 12:52 PM
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Overtraining is related to TSB if you want to talk about it in a cycling sense and use words and acronyms from that word-bank.

I think to an extent TSB and CTL are over-rated because the optimal adaptations can occur at different levels in different people. It might also depend on the training phase. If you're working on your threshold and/or some VO2 work, you simply can't do workouts like that every day and/or also have huge base rides in between. You need more form to hit those workouts.

You don't need a lot of form to do steady state, tempo, or z1/z2 training. That's where I'd pay more attention to overall CTL and TSB. Folks tend to ramp their CTL too quickly and for too long without any plateaus (breaks).

That's overtraining. You literally make yourself physically ill sometimes. Adaptation stops (or you regress).

So, I'd look at these things separately. You can have a fun hobby in bike training and looking at the numbers. You can also have a problem a health professional needs to help with.

I wouldn't really use the word overtraining together with addiction. Athletes who don't need mental health care can over-train. Athletes who have an addiction or mental health need might very well have never actually over-trained in their entire lives.

I'd nail the mental health aspect first. Then worry about the actual meaning and recognizing "overtraining".
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Old 09-12-19, 01:49 PM
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Exercise -- excessive exercise -- is the symptom, not the disease.
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Old 09-12-19, 03:52 PM
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Exercising and training isn't the same thing...To all the people who say that overtraining isn't real, I say that the only reason why you don't overtrain is because you never do any real training...All that you're doing is just exercising to burn few calories with hopes of loosing some weight. If you really trained with any real intensity and frequency you would very quickly realize that the possibility of overtraining is real...Riding a 100 mile century in zone 2 and then living a sedentary lifestyle for the rest of the week isn't really training...or goofing around on a treadmill and stationary bike in front of a big screen TV isn't really training.
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Old 09-12-19, 04:45 PM
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Riding when I don't feel like it? Check.
Riding purely to fulfill an arbitrary, personally set mileage goal? Check.
Setting aforementioned goal in multiple "tiers," because if I miss the lowest one (even due to injury) the dark thoughts show up? Check.
Avoiding other tasks or responsibilities to get miles in? Check.
Sore legs pretty much continually for 5 years? Check.


I haven't had 3 off days in a row since I started riding. I was only down for two days with a broken hand before I was on the trainer, putting in 500 miles on Zwift.
We've all got our own stuff we're dealing with. I might be riding myself to death, but I can still eat donuts, so I've got that going for me.
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Old 09-12-19, 09:52 PM
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It is possible to overtrain and not know it (I think a lot of cyclist here fall under that umbrella). You train and train to advance and overcome your previous limits but you don't improve so you train even harder.

Thing is, your plateau wasn't due to insufficient training, rather, your lack of rest and recovery -- and/or nutrition. I recognize one example of overtraining (rarely), when its not fun anymore.
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Old 09-13-19, 07:16 AM
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I've flirted with the obsession a couple of times. I find that a casual ride with a friend will usually help ground me and helps reinforce why I started riding in the first place. Although, I did have the disease about 25 years ago when I was a runner. I was running 6 days a week. Running each day when I got home from work. If I missed a day I would beat myself up the next day and would convince I was getting fat from the lack of exercise. Fortunately, that does not happen any longer.
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Old 09-13-19, 08:27 AM
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Originally Posted by KraneXL View Post
It is possible to overtrain and not know it (I think a lot of cyclist here fall under that umbrella). You train and train to advance and overcome your previous limits but you don't improve so you train even harder.

Thing is, your plateau wasn't due to insufficient training, rather, your lack of rest and recovery -- and/or nutrition. I recognize one example of overtraining (rarely), when its not fun anymore.
Trust me, because I'm there right now: if you truly overtrain, you'll know it. Again, I don't believe my "overtraining" was actually the result of training too much, but of mentally burning the candle at both ends (it should be noted that exercise is a stress on the brain and body, just like work stress, so it's cumulative). But overtraining isn't just being down on speed for a few days or having tired legs. At 35 years old and in the prime health of my life, there have been days I couldn't get out of bed. An easy century rider, I've been reduced to struggling to go 5-7 miles at walking pace on a bicycle. THAT is overtraining, so let's not minimize it.
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Old 09-13-19, 08:42 PM
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I have seen it enough to keep from getting to carried away, and still burned out mentally in '17 for a few months. A recent extreme example was a local rider that still went on a 30+ mile ride while not able to hold up his head (cyclist palsy?) and propped it on his shoulder riding on the tops. He had been Strava segment hunting every day for weeks.
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Old 09-14-19, 12:11 AM
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Back in the day, as a distance runner, I occasionally pushed certain weeks a bit beyond my overall endurance and/or nutrition at that point in the season. Not often, but occasionally. I never viewed that as over-training on the larger scale, but rather as a short-term misjudgment of my stamina. Sometimes, it was lack of electrolytes. Sometimes, the distance was at the limits of fueling. Occasionally, I'd gotten back from an illness or downtime with insufficient stretching or prep for the effort. But, nothing long-term, thankfully.

My big take-away then, as now: listen to the body, because it generally knows. There are all sorts of feedback signals the body will send to ensure we know we're at the limits. If we're listening, and adjust accordingly, we can generally pull back from the edge easily.

Have never pushed hard enough in cycling, over time, to come near those limits. Uh, other than that one day, doing the better part of a century with an aspiring racer who showed me what a hard pace could be. Couldn't walk, run or ride properly for several days, after that. But that was a one-time deal, that hard.
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Old 09-14-19, 02:35 AM
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Originally Posted by Dreww10 View Post
Trust me, because I'm there right now: if you truly overtrain, you'll know it. Again, I don't believe my "overtraining" was actually the result of training too much, but of mentally burning the candle at both ends (it should be noted that exercise is a stress on the brain and body, just like work stress, so it's cumulative). But overtraining isn't just being down on speed for a few days or having tired legs. At 35 years old and in the prime health of my life, there have been days I couldn't get out of bed. An easy century rider, I've been reduced to struggling to go 5-7 miles at walking pace on a bicycle. THAT is overtraining, so let's not minimize it.
On the contrary, trust me. Overtraining can take on many psychological and/or physiological conditions both subtle and intense so that it mimics many other ailments. It can be overlooked or misdiagnosed even by a trained professional who doesn't know what to look for. So you absolutely do not always know.

Originally Posted by Clyde1820 View Post
Back in the day, as a distance runner, I occasionally pushed certain weeks a bit beyond my overall endurance and/or nutrition at that point in the season. Not often, but occasionally. I never viewed that as over-training on the larger scale, but rather as a short-term misjudgment of my stamina. Sometimes, it was lack of electrolytes. Sometimes, the distance was at the limits of fueling. Occasionally, I'd gotten back from an illness or downtime with insufficient stretching or prep for the effort. But, nothing long-term, thankfully.

My big take-away then, as now: listen to the body, because it generally knows. There are all sorts of feedback signals the body will send to ensure we know we're at the limits. If we're listening, and adjust accordingly, we can generally pull back from the edge easily.

Have never pushed hard enough in cycling, over time, to come near those limits. Uh, other than that one day, doing the better part of a century with an aspiring racer who showed me what a hard pace could be. Couldn't walk, run or ride properly for several days, after that. But that was a one-time deal, that hard.
Well, not really. As stated the symptoms of overtraining can be similar to signs of many other ailments. What feels like overtraining could be a case of the flu for instance. The symptoms can be identical.

A more predictable measurement would be utilizing time-intervals. The on-season/off-season intervals for example. That's the mechanism that automatically prevents overtraining by giving you intervals of hard workouts followed by periods of rest. A pattern all the major sports have adopted.
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Old 09-14-19, 12:55 PM
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Originally Posted by KraneXL View Post
Originally Posted by Clyde1820 View Post
My big take-away then, as now: listen to the body, because it generally knows.
Well, not really. As stated the symptoms of overtraining can be similar to signs of many other ailments. What feels like overtraining could be a case of the flu for instance. The symptoms can be identical.

A more predictable measurement would be utilizing time-intervals. The on-season/off-season intervals for example. That's the mechanism that automatically prevents overtraining by giving you intervals of hard workouts followed by periods of rest. A pattern all the major sports have adopted.
That was my point.

If when training hard the body starts "talking" ... getting ill, getting injured, feeling drained, whatever ... it's a pretty good bet the body's not doing so well in repairing itself and withstanding a "blow" now and then.

Absolutely, one won't always know if a manifestation is specifically due to over-training. But backing off on the training and allowing the body more room in which to heal isn't a bad thing. In an otherwise generally healthy person, it can often be the helpful change that the body appreciates.

Didn't mean to imply one knows what the body's saying, necessarily.
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Old 09-14-19, 04:49 PM
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I think OP is confusing two different issues here...Overtraining and exercise addiction are not the same thing....Exercise addiction is when your entire life revolves around obsessive exercising and that's all you ever think about. It often happens to people who suffer from body image problems or body dysmorphia. and they're using exercise with hopes of correcting flaws in their physical appearance.....Overtraining happens to pro athletes who train for events which they are competing in, it can also happen to amateur athletes, fitness people, gym rats and your average weekend warriors who set unrealistic fitness/performance goals and get a little too obsessed with improving their performance.
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Old 09-19-19, 10:19 AM
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Originally Posted by wolfchild View Post
i think op is confusing two different issues here...overtraining and exercise addiction are not the same thing....exercise addiction is when your entire life revolves around obsessive exercising and that's all you ever think about. It often happens to people who suffer from body image problems or body dysmorphia. And they're using exercise with hopes of correcting flaws in their physical appearance.....overtraining happens to pro athletes who train for events which they are competing in, it can also happen to amateur athletes, fitness people, gym rats and your average weekend warriors who set unrealistic fitness/performance goals and get a little too obsessed with improving their performance.
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Old 09-28-19, 09:30 AM
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The term "exercise addiction" was obviously thought up by an automobile addicted person who chose not to structure their life around superior health and fitness.
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Old 09-28-19, 03:43 PM
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Originally Posted by wolfchild View Post
Exercising and training isn't the same thing...To all the people who say that overtraining isn't real, I say that the only reason why you don't overtrain is because you never do any real training...All that you're doing is just exercising to burn few calories with hopes of loosing some weight. If you really trained with any real intensity and frequency you would very quickly realize that the possibility of overtraining is real...Riding a 100 mile century in zone 2 and then living a sedentary lifestyle for the rest of the week isn't really training...or goofing around on a treadmill and stationary bike in front of a big screen TV isn't really training.
Nah. Overtraining takes nearly pathological commitment.

Lots and lots of people putting in 15-20 hours a week of periodized training without overtraining.

It takes months of overreaching to overtrain, and that takes a lot of denial/delusion that you're handling the training plus a lot of apathy towards severe fatigue and general exercise-induced suffering.

Overtraining is definitely real, but it's definitely not common. And it's certainly not a result of "really training". "Really training" should not lead to overtraining, as that would defeat the purpose of said training in the first place.
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Old 09-28-19, 09:02 PM
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Yeah, a lot of people confuse overreaching with overtraining and get all freaked out. I don't think I know anyone who's ever overtrained, and I know a number of people who ride PBP and LD races. Most folks are sane enough to back it off when they find they're riding 2 cogs lower than usual. Occasional overreaching is fine. In fact if you don't, you don't know where your limits are. We just try not to do that in the middle of the season.
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Old 10-04-19, 05:18 PM
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I definitely was doing it wrong for the longest time because, once I was diagnosed with moderate arthritis in the left hip, and was informed I'd picked the best exercise possible and so long as I'm not taking too much Aleve and start being careful too work within my limitations, I should keep on doing it, but... cycling has been even more fun, ever since and for the most part, pain-free. Slow down and enjoy the ride...
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Old 10-04-19, 06:14 PM
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I disagree. Overtraining is real and can cover a wide-gamut. It can manifest itself physically, emotionally and psychologically.
Originally Posted by McBTC View Post
I definitely was doing it wrong for the longest time because, once I was diagnosed with moderate arthritis in the left hip, and was informed I'd picked the best exercise possible and so long as I'm not taking too much Aleve and start being careful too work within my limitations, I should keep on doing it, but... cycling has been even more fun, ever since and for the most part, pain-free. Slow down and enjoy the ride...
Cycling may be more fun, but anaerobic training is part of the network that help make it more effective.
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Old 10-04-19, 08:35 PM
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Originally Posted by KraneXL View Post
I disagree. Overtraining is real and can cover a wide-gamut. It can manifest itself physically, emotionally and psychologically.

Cycling may be more fun, but anaerobic training is part of the network that help make it more effective.
... Not sure about that anymore...

https://scholar.google.com/scholar?h...3DSwQJshIk6i8J
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Old 10-09-19, 09:58 AM
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