Training V Recovery… How Much is Too Much?
At its simplest, when we train we are breaking down muscle and then our body actively repairs and builds more muscle to prevent the same damage in the future. The same goes for improving fitness (though the mechanism is slightly different). If you want something interesting to bring up the dinner table, this process is called ‘the super-compensation cycle’
If your recovery and nutrition is on point, fussing about your training load is not as much of an issue. With appropriate rest and refuelling you can effectively and efficiently adapt / ‘compensate’ for the load you are forcing upon your body during training. Therefore your body will effectively adapt to the ‘damage’ you have caused to it. This adaptation is where we build muscle. Improve our fitness. Lose body fat. Just remember that the adaptation is (generally) specific to the stimulus.
However, not everyone lives in a perfect world and there are many factors that may impair your ability to obtain elite athlete levels of rest. Maybe you do shift work, have a new born and sleep has become this foreign thing to you, or perhaps you just binge a bit too much on Netflix.
In cases like this we need to start thinking a bit more critically about why/what/when and how much we are training?
There are no hard and fast rules here but in my experience (training both myself and others) there are a few simple strategies that can be employed to ensure our training week is balanced appropriately and allows our body sufficient time to adapt to the training demand and grow/repair.
- Get in and out of the gym within 1hr.
Unless you’re a powerlifter or other high level strength athlete; if your session is stretching into the 2-3hr range you’re probably training too long. Consider what is essential; will that 12 set of bicep curls really make a difference? Always ask yourself, is this actually helping me work towards my goal?
- Only 1 highly intense training session per day and max of 3 per week.
There is only so much very high intensity activity that the body can handle. It takes more effort for your body to recover from these sessions and if you repeatedly stress the body while it is fatigued, you will eventually get to a point where your body is so beaten down that it cannot repair. Take a day off or keep activity light the day after a very high intensity session.
- No more than 2 sessions per day.
Given the time and proper schedule twice per day training is an effective way to get stronger, gain muscle, or improve body comp. However, not many people have a timetable that flexible. Try and keep your training to two distinctly different sessions, if doing two sessions within the one day. E.g. yoga in the morning and a strength session in the evening. But remember that this is all training and doing two sessions will interrupt your recovery.
- At least 1 total rest day each week.
This is where the ‘SuperCompensation’ happens and your body will bounce back from a hard week. This is often a good day to include a cheat meal/higher calorie meal to assist in the muscle rebuilding process.
So now that you have these different systems to use go and look at your training week and see if you can improve (even slightly) the structure/amount of training you are doing.
Next week we are going to look at how you should structure your training cycle and what element (e.g. strength) you should train and when.