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Overtraining or Under-Recovering?

Jul 07, 2019

As a Physical therapist I hear very similar stories from friends, family, patients, and especially from people I randomly meet. It goes something like this, “I have this knee pain when I run or workout. I rested it for (insert random #) of weeks/days, and did some exercises I found on WebMD or YouTube. It’s still hurting and getting worse what do I do?” This person is not overtraining. He or she is under-recovering. Let me show you what I mean.

Most people when they talk about overtraining ask, “Am I working out too much, too long, or too hard?” The easy answer is no… but it’s obviously much more complex than that. I want to show you a different way to look at this issue. Overtraining happens when work capacity exceeds your body’s ability to adapt to the training stimulus. The human body, in its ideal state and under the right conditions, is able to take an amazing amount of training, volume, and intensity. We aren’t all 22-year-old professional athletes with amazing genetics but our bodies are capable of much more than we think! There are a lot of variables that we can control to aid in recovery. Let’s look at “overtraining” from a different angle and ask some different questions.

What are the signs that my body is not recovering properly?

The 3 Rs of Redlining

Regression: your improvements in the gym during training diminish, perform worse, or lift less weight. This is one of the most important reasons to monitor closely your performance (PRs, time domains, weights etc.)

Run down: You feel like crap… fatigue, malaise, difficulty concentrating, etc. We all know the feeling. It’s not ok to feel this way and you’ve got fix it before your body fixes it for you. Your body is smarter than you. Things need to change or your body will slow down or even shut down.

Rehab needed: knee pain, shoulder pain, back pain. All warning signs that workload capacity has been exceeded. Listen to your body. Some degree of shoulder, knee, and/or back pain is NOT normal. Talk to your coach, go see a PT, chiro or another health professional before these problems shut down your training completely. Start yourself on the road to recovery and towards improving your performance, schedule an appointment with us today.

Ok, now that we know we aren’t recovering properly. What happens next? We want to keep working out and training hard but our bodies are saying stop. How can we optimize recovery without giving up our gym time?

The 6 most effective ways to optimize recovery!

1- Get the right prescription and dosage: the right exercise prescription (programming, cross training, quality of movement, mobility work, auxiliary work) and the right dosage (reps/sets, volume, rest time, weight/load). Each person’s prescription and dosage differ based on lifestyle factors, medical history, height, weight, genetics, etc. The right coach or health professional can help prioritize and tackle this problem. What you do in your workouts and how you are moving is so important!

2- Overemphasize Sleep: YES, you need adequate sleep. YES, most people need 6-8 hours a night. YES, there are some outliers, NO, that’s probably not you. You’ve got to find out how much sleep you need, and prioritize it or your training will suffer.

3- Accurate Nutrition: Put enough (not too much) real food in your body. I won’t go into specifics, but if you want to dig in more go here or here or here.

4- Take Rest Days: Taking a rest week a few times a year isn’t a terrible idea either. Here is the hard part…Guilt free rest days. If you take a rest day or week, you won’t get fat or get weaker. In my experience, the opposite is typically true. The science on full recovery is still being researched, usually full recovery is way longer than you think. Get more science here

5- Elicit Recovery: We won’t go into too much detail, but supplements and what I call “support staff” fall here. Seeing a physical therapist or another health professional that understands your training demands is smart for EVERYONE. What if I’m not injured? All the more reason to go. We go to the dentist to prevent tooth decay. Why wouldn’t you go to prevent muscle injuries? Having some “support staff” can not only improve performance but can avoid many (not all) costly, time consuming injuries. Ready to get your support staff? Click here to schedule an appointment.

6- Decrease stress.  We all have stressors in our everyday life. Find ways to decrease stress. Here is a good start.

My goal here is to change the way you think about overtraining and about your body in general. Put control of your health in your own hands. I want you to train smart, recover better, move efficiently, and be ok with asking for help from your coach or health professional. For the typical athlete your body’s natural ability to recover typically exceeds the amount of time you have to train when all other variables are optimal. Focus on the things that will give you the most bang for your buck, and it’s not training more.

 5 quick easy actionable steps to improve recovery

1– Purposeful foam roller/mobility work for 5-10 minutes a day.
2– During your warmup and during workouts commit to having the best form in the gym not the heaviest weight or the quickest time.
3– Active Rest day once a week. Take a 30-minute walk WITHOUT your phone.
4– Setup an evaluation or 1on1 training session with a trusted coach or health professional.
5– Eat more protein, consume less sugar, drink less alcohol.


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