Are you overtraining or under-recovering? I pose this important question at the beginning of this article because as you read I want you to really think so that by the end, you can come up with an honest answer. Maybe you’re doing neither and are in a sweet spot which is great! Or perhaps upon reflection, you have become aware that you’re not training enough – which is also great because now you can push yourself more! Training as what you perceive to be hard is needed for you to see the results you want, meaning you should always come into the gym with the mindset of pushing yourself to your limit on that given day. However, while training hard is the lock, recovering harder is the key. What does this mean? Train HARD and recover HARDER!
With my little pep talk out of the way, let’s dive into the nitty-gritty. Overtraining syndrome is defined as a condition in which someone experiences fatigue and declining performance despite continuing or increased training. Overtraining can result in negative mood changes, decreased motivation, frequent injuries and potential infections. Under recovery can be defined as the imbalance of recovery periods and daily life demands of a person. These demands can be intensive practice, competitions, and any form of stress that is linked to everyday life.
Let’s take a look at an example of overtraining in its most common and stereotypical form. John will spend around 2-4 hours a day, 5-6 days a week and potentially 2 times a day in the gym pushing himself to his limits early in the morning before work. No matter what type of training John does, he is putting his body under a large amount of weekly volume.
Under recovering may look something like this – after John finishes his gym session (whatever that may look like) he has a full day of work, then coaches his daughter’s netball team after school twice per week plus a game on Saturdays, not including his mandatory chores at home such as cooking, cleaning, getting the kids ready for bed and then for school the next day etc. We can see that John does not have a lot of downtime, so not only is he putting himself under heavy physical stress, but now at times, the stress of life starts to take its toll.
Why do I give this as an example? Because as I mentioned it is a commonly seen lifestyle of someone who is overtraining. I also want to bring to light that overtraining and under recovering is not rare, and can be disguised in many other seemingly normal lifestyles. For example, a university student who is in the middle of studying for exams. Many would assume that because they are sitting down most of the day studying, they are not suffering from fatigue. However, the high levels of mental stress they are under can even make 2-3 1 hour gym sessions per week feel like a lot.
In short, what I am trying to say is overtraining and under recovering can have many different ways of presenting themselves – so become self-aware. Self-awareness is key, as is being mindful of when you are fatiguing, seeing decreases in performance or experiencing increased mood swings. If you struggle to see the signs, this is where turning to people and professionals you trust such as a personal trainer, physio, gym instructor, friend or family member is key because others can commonly see the signs before you realise them yourself. While you may not feel like you need to, I STRONGLY encourage you to consider the honest feedback given by those people who see the signs, because down the track you will be happier and healthier for longer through continuing to enjoy exercising and seeing improved results.
While these two principles are different by definition, at the end of the day they interrelate and without doing one properly the other will suffer. Now, I leave you with how we started – TRAIN HARD AND RECOVER HARDER! Watch newfound results come and most importantly, your love for exercising maintain and strengthen.