Recovery isn’t a chocolate chip cookie – it’s a dark green vegetable.

“Am I overtraining?” – this question very rarely comes up, but every once in a while we get a Brooklyn Fitness Bootcamp goer who is concerned about overtraining. If you think you may be overtraining, consider instead – am I under-recovering? Am I giving my body the appropriate amount of rest that it needs.

The concept of under-recovery is difficult to measure because – just like many aspects of fitness – it depends on bio-individuality. There is no set number of days to take off between lifting (one to three days) or between cardio-training sessions (not more than 2 consecutive days). What you should know, is that your body NEEDS time to recover. That’s right not wants – NEEDS. Proper recovery (both in the form of rest and nutrition) will keep all of your systems functioning at peak – including your immune system (which can be compromised by overtraining)!

So how can you tell if you’re not getting enough rest? to measure subjectively, consider the following two questions: Are you finding your workouts draining? Do you feel fatigued instead of invigorated by working out? For a more objective measure: Are you still able to reach your Heart Rate training zones when doing cardio? Are you seeing improvement in terms of the adaptation your are seeking (for example, greater cardiovascular endurance or muscle strength).

As a general rule, when lifting weights, wait for the soreness to subside before you lift again. You want to be at a point where you have complete range of motion. It is a MYTH that you MUST be sore after you lift. If you take the time to stretch adequately (dynamically, statically and myo-fascially) you shouldn’t be very sore or very sore for very long. Can you lift 2, 3 or even 6 days a week? Sure! Just make certain that you’re giving any given muscle group adequate recovery time. For example, if I do a full body lift on Monday, I wouldn’t do a full body lift on Tuesday, but I could probably do one on Wednesday. Keep in mind, it does depend on my individual recovery time and several other factors (am I getting enough sleep, am I eating for maximal recovery, am I drinking enough fluids? – what is the quality of the rest and fuel that will power my workout?)

When doing cardio, do give yourself a minimum of one day off a week. Resting heart rate can also give you some insight into your training. Take your resting heart rate in the morning when you wake up (before you get out of bed). Ideally, it would be taken when you naturally wake (without an alarm clock); however, as this is difficult to find time to do, you can also take it upon awaking to an alarm. Take your resting heart rate for three days straight and then find the average. According to sources at Rice University, there is a difference between the stress placed on sympathetic nervous system versus the parasympathetic nervous system and  resting heart rate. Thus, in sports that require sprinting you may find that the resting heart rate is elevated; where as, in sports that require great deals of endurance, you may find that resting heart rate is significantly decreased.

It is also possible to overtrain without exhibiting objective symptoms – in which case, you must judge subjectively. The following resources provide some excellent information. In any case, for the every day athlete, it’s important to remember that gains CANNOT be made without rest and that the body is a master of adaptation – you will enjoy more gains when you take the time to adequately rest and fuel. There is no way to find a definitive answer to the question of overtraining – you must pay attention to your own body and recognize the signs of fatigue. Remember, recovery isn’t just something your body wants – it’s something your body NEEDS.

If you have experience with overtraining/under training let us know or if you have a special way of knowing when you’re doing too much – leave a comment!

 

Resources

“How Many Days a Week Should You Lift???” DB Strength & Conditioning. Web. 16 Feb. 2012. <http://dbstrength.blogspot.com/2011/06/how-many-days-week-should-you-lift.html>.
“John Berardi – Muscle Recovery.” Dr. John Berardi, Ph.D. Web. 16 Feb. 2012. <http://www.johnberardi.com/articles/training/weightlifting.htm>.
“The Overtraining Syndrome.” Rice University. Web. 16 Feb. 2012. <http://www.rice.edu/~jenky/sports/overtraining.html>.
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