I'd settle for a plateau.
July 28, 2012 7:40 AM   Subscribe

Three months into boot camp, suddenly weaker than ever. Wha?

So, I've been enrolled in one of those outdoor "boot camp"-style fitness programs for the last 13 weeks. Six days a week, one hour a day, of explosive movements, sprints, intervals, quick-response drills with weights and without, variable terrain runs and crawls (beach / street / grass). Much to my surprise, I love it. It's ass-kicking stuff, it gets me out of bed bright and early, and I always leave dripping, drained, and swimming in endorphins.

For the first 6-8 weeks I was improving like a rock star. In the past two weeks, though, I feel as if I've actually gotten weaker: my 6:10 mile is down to 6:25, I can barely make it through 25 pushups, and I'm feeling stiffer and less flexible. (Although I can still hold a five-minute plank, and my core strength feels about the same.) What gives? Is this something that just happens when you're operating at such a high level of intensity over a long period of time? And should I expect it to turn around again at some point?

Data: 35yo male, natural body type between a mesomorph and an endomorph. My (mostly clean) diet hasn't changed; I'm still stretching and getting the same amount of sleep; but I am a bit more stressed lately due to life changes around work and income.
posted by mykescipark to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Are you eating enough to sustain your increased level of exercise?
posted by insectosaurus at 7:44 AM on July 28, 2012 [11 favorites]

Have you asked the people runnIng the boot camp?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:08 AM on July 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

Just from my own experience, I would suggest doing something else for one or two weeks, like swimming or spinning and then starting again. I think you can get burnt out on routine. It happened to me with kickboxing.
posted by samsaunt at 8:16 AM on July 28, 2012

You need to be eating a lot of protein for this kind of thing. A lot. When I've trained that hard I've had to eat the equivalent of six chicken breast halves a day worth of protein.

Also, did you dive into this? Especially after being fit, falling off for a while, then coming back it's really easy to overtrain. Just because you're physically capable of doing something doesn't mean your body can hold up to doing it, especially nearly every day.
posted by cmoj at 8:19 AM on July 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Classic over-training. Your cortisol levels are probably through the roof. Take a week off an relax. Most responsible gyms that have a problem like this have a week off in their cycle of training to prevent over-training. The last gym I was training at, it was 3- weeks on, 1 week off.
posted by melissam at 8:22 AM on July 28, 2012 [12 favorites]

Seconding melissam. Take a week off, do some light stretching and maybe take a leisurely walk or two, and sleep the hell in. I really like the 3-on-one-off pattern for heavy weightlifting, and 8-on-1-off for cardio. But in general, when you see your performance go down, that's the sign your body needs some extra recovery time.
posted by restless_nomad at 8:47 AM on July 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

My first thought was overtraining, but wait, you're not eating more? If you're exercising more and your calorie consumption isn't going up, you could be running out of fuel.
posted by J. Wilson at 8:51 AM on July 28, 2012

I agree with the advice that a week off is a good idea, and eating more in imperative.

But I also want you to get checked out by a doctor, especially if you havent had your labs done in a while and/or didn't get cleared by a doc to start this intense program.

I'm going through some health crap now that seems to have been exacerbated by the 6 months of running I spent trying to improve my stamina and overall health. Like you, I kept going and not seeing improvement (except weight gain, which I liked).

So. Call your doctor on Monday. Get your labs and other vitals checked. And hopefully you have baseline labs from some previous time to compare. If you're going to a new doctor, get the previous labs sent over ahead of your visit so the doc can see them. The doctor will decide what to order based in your presentation and your precious lab values.
posted by tulip-socks at 9:01 AM on July 28, 2012

The stress thing could also be contributing. Even if you are technically sleeping from your usual bedtime to your usual awake time, the sleep might not be as deep/restorative/etc.
posted by elizardbits at 10:04 AM on July 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thirding melissam, and you will be amazed how much stronger and more awesome you will be when you return from your week off.
posted by tatiana131 at 11:32 AM on July 28, 2012

Seconding Elizardbits.

Stress can wreck havoc on the quality of sleep you are having, try to be mindful of how you feel after sleeping...if you aren't feeling rested, it may be a good thought to dial it back.
posted by ACEness at 12:01 PM on July 28, 2012

Thanks everyone! A good compendium of mindfulness here.

The program is six weeks on, one week off. The rest week was two weeks ago, and I did a LOT of sleeping-in. For this session, I'm dialing the whole thing back to four days a week instead of six, in the hopes that it might help. But my (relatively) poor performance this session is what prompted the question.

My doctor had no issues with me starting the program. My overall level of health and fitness is excellent, and a blood panel from earlier in the year showed nothing out of the ordinary. He's actually been highly supportive of the boot camp idea, as I've moved further into my thirties and it's been harder and harder to stay lean.

I recently stopped doing my homemade protein shakes* before the workout every morning because I wanted to save the extra 400 calories, but perhaps I need them after all.

I don't doubt that the stress is at play here as well, which is why I mentioned it.

(* whey powder + mixed berries + orange + lowfat soy milk)
posted by mykescipark at 12:25 PM on July 28, 2012

Another idea: When I was working out a ton, I know that hydration during the day made a huge difference in how I felt during my workout. If you haven't, I'd suggest cutting caffeine and, like, tripling your water intake.
posted by scottatdrake at 10:22 AM on July 30, 2012

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