“When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water.” - Benjamin Franklin
When it comes to blogging I try my best to tackle topics that answer your burning questions. I want to provide you all with information you can apply to your lives and reap the benefits. My ears are always open. I’ve heard one question in particular uttered quite frequently in the Boom Room and I think now is the time to address it.
Let’s clear this up once and for all (or at least until there is more current science-based research): Is there such a thing as overtraining?
Much like unicorns and big foot, there are many who think overtraining is a myth. Researching this topic will yield enough results and opinions to make your head spin (which is probably why the question is still floating around). I did however give it the old college try because I love you guys and I want what’s best for you.
Here is what I uncovered. There isn’t such a thing as overtraining….at least not really.
Let me explain.
Why can Boomer A train daily (even multiple times a day) and still thrive while Boomer B attempts the same thing only to end up feeling like they’ve been run through a meat grinder?
It all comes down to recovery. You can’t really overtrain..but you can certainly under-recover.
I’m not the gamblin’ type but I’d wager that Boomer A isn’t just lucky, they are working smarter not harder.
How do you know if you are under-recovered?
First let's define “recovery”.
Recovery is the ability to meet or exceed performance in a particular activity.
- normalization of physiological functions (blood pressure, cardiac cycle etc)
- return to homeostasis (resting cell environment)
- restoration of energy stores (blood glucose and muscle glycogen)
- replenishment of cellular energy enzymes
There are different types and stages of recovery, different suggested rest times between different training protocols and intensities, different requirements based on an individual's constitution and ability to cope with stressors....there are a lot of factors.
Rather than write a novel of scientific information, I hand-picked the most important bits of information to give you a cheat sheet that will ensure you are getting optimal recovery time.
Let's start with a list of red flags that you might be under-recovering
Beyond occasional “tiredness”, this fatigue is chronic and is accompanied by performance drops. If severe enough recovery can take months or even years.
You are working as hard as ever (maybe even harder) and you aren’t progressing. You may even be back-peddling.
Injury and illness
Just when you’re finally getting over one injury…surprise! you’re hurt somewhere else. You also may feel like you have the cold that lasts forever. Always sick and hurt? You might be in dire need of recovery time.
Mental health issues
While there are many factors that influence mental health, your training routine and intensity could be contributing to feeling a lack of motivation or depression.
Insufficient recovery can affect your hormones and nervous system which could cause you to develop sleep problems.
Now that we know some red flags, what the heck can we do about this? I can hear you now “Don’t you dare tell me I have to workout less! I won’t do it! LFT is my happy place!”
I get you! Don’t fret. There are some simple but important tweaks you can make that can significantly improve your recovery. It might even (gasp!) help you get better results and bigger gains!
Here is your quick and dirty list of ways to promote recovery.
Take a break when you feel completely wrecked
A basic rule to go by is to listen to your body. If you feel completely fatigued, sick or are physically injured, take a day off, maybe even two. You can get back on that saddle quicker if you respond to your body’s needs.
You don’t have to achieve a new PR every damn workout
Are you absolutely killing yourself at every workout every day or multiple times a day and you leave the gym feeling like a crash test dummy? If so, A. You’re probably a masochist and B. You’re doing too much! Allowing your muscles to repair between sessions will actually allow you advance more quickly. Yes you need to push and challenge yourself each workout but you don’t need to do max reps every time. Stop kicking your own ass.
Allow yourself a rest day with active recovery
Taking a full day to sit on the couch, eat and binge watch <insert your favorite crap television show here> is not an ideal rest day. Consider a rest day a day where you can replace a hard workout with things like a routine of mobility exercises, hiking or yoga. Keep the body moving but find a more replenishing activity.
Shorten the duration of your workouts
If you work out 6 hours a day and you’re not a professional athlete, consider taking it down a notch. It's really about quality not quantity.
Revaluate your nutrition
I know some of you don’t like to hear this but nutrition is even more important (think 75%) than exercise. If you aren’t fueling your body you can’t recover properly or maintain energy for your workouts. (Yes there are some people who hit the genetic jackpot who can eat anything they want…I’m talking about the rest of us)
Get at least 7-9 hours of sleep a night
If you aren’t getting enough sleep you are going to have to decrease your training volume. Sleep is crucial to recovery. That is when those muscles you tore up get repaired. All I am saying, is give sleep a chance.
Get some magic hands on those tired muscles
Get a sports massage! I’m not talking about a soft, floaty spa massage, I mean a grinding, cupping, get IN there, damn-that-hurt massage. It will help break up the adhesions in your fascia (soft fibrous tissue surrounding your muscles and organs). It can make a world of difference. Also make some time to foam roll daily and get in there with a lacrosse ball to loosen things up as well. Word to the wise, the more it hurts, the more you need it!
For those of you happy with your workout routine and energy level, keep doing what you’re doing. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. If any of these red flags apply to you, heed my advice and do what you can to recover better and nurture that body of yours. Sometimes you’ll find that much like a sling-shot, taking a small step back can actually catapult you further ahead in the long run. Now go get em!
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