Too Much Of A Good Thing? How Working Too Hard Can Cause You To Regress (The Lia Santini update).

“More is not better, it is just more”…

As I write this blog it is exactly 1-year to the day since I started training Lia Santini.

Wondering how that year went?

Well, for the first 7-months everything was going great (read about it here), she was building muscle, losing body fat, and increasing her strength.

Then we hit a roadblock!

Lia's 6-month results

Lia’s 6-month results (May 2015-Nov 2015)

That roadblock was our yearly 40-in-40 event…

Every year we (CKO/2.0) kickoff the New Year by challenging our members to workout everyday for 40 days… If 40-workouts in 40-days sounds a little extreme to you, that’s probably because it is, however it’s safe and doable. Most people live extremely sedentary lives which means working out once-a-day, especially on a short term basis, can have phenomenal benefits. But Lia is not “most people”…

A little background on Lia. She is a former Division 1 (D-1) swimmer, which means, she is an elite athlete. How elite? Well according to the website only 3% of high school women go on to compete at the Division 1 level. In other words, you don’t become a D-1 swimmer by doing the bare minimum, you become a D-1 swimmer by working extremely hard every single day for years. So it should come as no surprise that the mindset of “HARD WORK” or “outwork your competition” has been forged into Lia’s psyche over a lifetime of high level competition!  So to make a long story short – Lia did 81 workouts in 40 days!!!

University of the Pacific Swimming

Lia swimming for University of the Pacific

In case you were wondering, doing 81 workouts in 40 days was not my idea, in fact I would never recommend this type of behavior to anyone (LOL)! At the start of the 40-in-40 there was a switch that flipped and you could see that competitiveness once again emerge. Lia was determined to not only get to 40 workouts faster than anyone, she was also going to do more. This is the type of competitiveness is what usually separates the Division-1 athletes from the weekend warriors.

So, Lia was successful in her quest to “win” the 40-in-40, but she paid a hefty price. The price was a fatigue, constant soreness, plantar fasciitis, gut irritation and lack of motivation all of which are symptoms of overtraining. As a result Lia lost nearly all of the progress we made over the last six months.

CKO Kickboxing Seattle Lia Santiti

But there is good news!

We were able to document all this using a total body measurement device. Why is this good news? Because, as the old saying goes: “if it doesn’t get measured it doesn’t get managed” and having this data allowed us to go back and further analyze what happen and when it happen. This is powerful stuff!

The device used for these measurements was the TANITA DC-430U* multi-frequency body composition analyzer.

*For the record; this machine is a great device although it’s not perfect.  There are a lot of factors and assumptions used by the equations that produce the measured results. However! If you take enough measurements at the same time of day these machines are very good at showing trends.

So let’s look at the trends:


Tanita results

Lia’s Body fat percentage

As you can see, Lia’s body fat was on a fairly consistent downward trend till January 28, 2016. Then after January 28, 2016 you can see a sharp increase in body fat. What’s the significance of January 28th? Well, this was 28-days into the 40-in-40 challenge which meant Lia had already done 56 workouts!

tanita results metabolic age

Lia’s metabolic age

Then when we look at Lia’s Metabolic age you see the same trend before and after January 28.

Tanita results weight

Lia’s weight

When looking at the trends of Lia’s weight the critical day was January 5, 2016. This was 5 days into the 40-in-40 and Lia had completed 10-workouts. Our weight is easily influenced so it makes since that Lia’s weight would start to trend-up before the other factors were affected.

The reason training too much or overtraining (as it’s called in the industry) destroys progress is because the body never has a chance to properly recover. Every time we workout we cause microtrauma to our muscles and inflict small amounts of stress on our central nervous system. When paired with proper rest these small amounts of microtrauma and stress are really beneficial, it’s what makes us stronger. But too much stress (mental or physical) over an extended period of time will break us down, literally!

So what have we done since analyzing this data? We cut down Lia’s workload to 5-days a week. That’s right, we are including rest days (interesting concept, right?). But its not just about including rest days, it’s about understanding of the importance of REST DAYS . And without the measured data from the TANITA convincing Lia to include 2-rest-days-a-week would have been a much harder task. Because every hardcore fitness fanatic cringes at the idea of taking any time off (can you relate to this?). This is because we are constantly bombarded with the same messages from the fitness industry; “train harder, longer, more often with greater intensity, etc”.

What’s the takeaway?

Rest days are important!!! If you workout too hard for too long you will REGRESS. Just ask Lia 😉