3 Reasons High-Intensity Training is RUINING Your Progress

Okay, so before you get up in arms, the title might be a little click-bait 😉

Doing the same things, over and over and over, isn’t good for the body. We have to progress the exercises, change position, increase the load, etc. But in the same way, training at the same intensity isn’t good for the body either!

For example, if you squat with a 25lb dumbbell, at a certain point, that’s not going to be very heavy – especially if you’re in a position where you have to lift up a heavier toddler multiple times throughout the day! We need to stress the body in a progressive manor – this is the principle of progressive overload.

But, the magic of progressive overload lies in the smart progression of intensity (heavier weights over time) and programmed times of lower intensity training.

High-intensity training can be necessary to reach our goals. BUT too much high intensity training can ruin your progress forward.

Do you prefer to listen?

This aired on the Fuel Your Freedom Podcast, episode 007! You can check out this episode and all others on all major podcast platforms or by clicking here.

It can be a common misconception that we get stronger, better, healthier, etc. from the training. But that’s not true.

We achieve our goals by recovering from the training that we’re doing in the gym.

When we’re training, we’re learning, adapting, growing, getting healthier, and making progress. There is an end goal or time that we’re working toward hitting. This is considered the “peak” of training.

Perhaps one of the best examples is racing. When we have a race on the calendar, that’s the event we’re preparing for at the end of the training cycle. We’re not looking to hit a PR in our pace on a random Tuesday – what’s the point of that? We’re looking to hit a goal at the end of a cycle.

But it doesn’t even have to be racing! At Unity, we program in 6-8 week cycles. Week 6 is the “PR week”. That’s where we want to push the intensity (or weight lifted). It’s not on the first week of a program; that’s for learning newer movements and typically deloading (or using lighter weights) so that the body can recover from the “PR week” the week prior.

But, if we never have these ebbs and flows in training intensity, instead of training we may be simply straining the body. Stress is high. We may notice the body breaking down. We feel like we can’t recover. Injury risk is increased.

Nothing good there.

We want to train intelligently – incorporating the periods of higher and lower intensity (weight lifted), higher and lower volume (amount of reps and sets), and throughout there should be a good balance of movement patterns within each of our training sessions.

So, I think by now, you’ve probably grasped that all-out, high intensity, high volume is a bad thing for our training. But let’s talk three specific reasons why it may be holding you back.

Your body needs recovery.

I talked about this in the introduction to this episode, but it’s absolutely worth repeating.

Your body needs recovery. That’s where we get better. That’s where we improve.

If we don’t take time to recover and regenerate, injury risk goes up, the body will break down, and we won’t reach our end goal.

I do want to talk about the difference between recovery and regeneration.

For me, I distinguish based on the EXOS methodology.

Recovery is passive. This includes time off from the gym, sitting around, sleeping, etc. We’re not actually “doing” anything. Recovery happens when we’re not actively doing anything.

But, on the other hand, regeneration is active. This includes walking, foam rolling and soft tissue work, appointments with a massage therapist/chiropractor/physical therapist, mobility sessions, etc. It’s practices that we actively participate in to move the needle forward and help the body to repair after a tough training session.

Let’s move into our second reason that going all-out is holding you back.

You get trapped in an all-or-nothing cycle.

I talked about this in episode three when I talked about the power of living in the grey area. If you haven’t listened to the episode or read the blog post on it, I’ll include a short recap here…but you should really go back and listen/read 😉

The all-or-nothing cycle is TERRIBLE for our progress. When we get stuck in a stop-and-go cycle, there’s WAY less progress forward than if we simply took smaller, more consistent action steps forward. Either we end up reversing some of the progress we made or we can get frustrated with simply having to “start over” each and every time there’s a set back in our lives.

That’s no way to live and that’s no way to approach a health and fitness goal.

But when we train all-out and NEVER take a break, deload, or day off, the body will force us to take a day off. This could be through a small setback like exhaustion or fatigue. Or it could be through a larger one such as an injury.

Like I said before, your body knows. If you’re not listening to what it’s telling you, it will “tell” you explicitly what it needs.

This all-or-nothing mentality can also lead to our final reason that training all-out is terrible for your health and fitness goals.

You start doing things because you HAVE to, not because you WANT to or enjoy the process of doing them.

Yes, there are times that we have to rely on discipline. Making it to the gym or training hard won’t always be rainbows and sunshine. We’re not going to be motivated 100% of the time. That’s just how it’s going to be. There are going to be those times when we rely on discipline more than motivation.

But when we’re training at a high intensity, it can become a form of control over our lives. Then, instead of controlling the training, the training can start to control us. We start to feel like we have to do these things. We start to never want to do them. We may even start to resent our goals and training.

That’s no way to train for anything.

But, when we take time away and we take time to deload and recover, we can come back to it with renewed passion and excitement. Our body is then recovered and ready to take on another high intensity or high-volume training cycle BECAUSE we gave it that time off.

So, that all brings us to our Empowered action for this week.

Em-powered Action

How can we achieve the balance? There are times that we should train all-out and then there are times that daily movement should take priority and make up a big part of our training time.

This week take inventory of your training time.

How much time are you spending working at a high intensity?

How much time are you spending with active recovery or lower intensity work?

How much time are you simply moving throughout the day?

How much time are you dedicating to regeneration – foam rolling, stretching, mobility, stability, etc.?

Tally it up. Then, take note of how you feel during this week as well. If you’re feeling achy, run-down, blah, un-motivated, anxious, fatigued, etc. you may have to turn up the dial on your regeneration activities or turn down the dial on your training intensity. It can be difficult to hear what our body is saying. But, over time, we can start to trust our bodies and what they are telling us regarding our health and fitness journey.

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