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OVERTRAINING - PART 3

newsletter May 13, 2022

By Jake Larsen

Beginning with wrestling and soccer, Jake has been immersed in fitness nearly his whole life.  Personal training and studying exercise in college were the natural progression of that passion.  Competing locally in bodybuilding and powerlifting, Jake currently studies exercise at university and does online coaching at Jackalstrength.com.

Overtraining

Part 3

Recovery

            Ask TikTok what recovery means, and you’ll likely get something about foam rolling, massages, and ice baths.  Or blue-light glasses.  I enjoy a good massage as much as the next person, but unfortunately that is what some call “majoring in the minors”.  These things can (possibly) improve recovery, but they certainly play a minor role at best.

            Recovery from exercise means first and foremost: rest.  As much as we want to expedite the process, recovery takes time.  We can influence how much time it requires to a small degree, but the bottom line will always be recovery takes time.  Quality rest means sleep.  Whether that’s more naps, an earlier bedtime, or simply less coffee, sleep is going to play a huge role in recovery.

            Movement can play a role in recovery, but rest will always take precedence.  Light or complimentary exercise that increases blood flow and range of motion can be a benefit in certain cases.  For example, if I hit a squat PR yesterday, going for a short hike could improve recovery, so long as it remained light and not significantly taxing, with rest remaining the number one priority.

            Nutrition is another major factor in recovery.  To share just a few examples, for endurance sports, glycogen replenishment matters a lot.  For shorter duration activities energy balance plays a huge role, as does nutrient density and things like (infamously) protein intake.  Matching your nutrition to your activity and your goals is a huge part of recovery.  Check out Pre-Script’s Dr. Dwayne Jackson to get a deep dive in sports nutrition and details specific to your sport.

            Hydration is an oft-overlooked factor in recovery.  The general recommendations for athletes look like:

-        Hydrate well enough while exercising so that you lose no more than 2% of your body weight (as sweat).

-        Rehydrate after activity roughly 1.5x the amount of liquid lost (so if you lose 1kg as sweat, drink 1.5L) shortly following the bout of exercise.

-        Daily fluid intakes (excluding physical activity needs) are 2.7 L/day for women and 3.7 L/day for men.

Though hydration recommendations for athletes are based largely on sweat rate, water’s role in sweat production might possibly be the least important of its many uses.  Water is needed for glycogen replenishment, protein synthesis, digestion… living… you know, just about everything.  But particularly everything involved in high-performance activities.  Prioritizing hydration may seem inconsequential, but it absolutely accelerates recovery.

Once you’ve mastered the important factors of recovery (rest, nutrition, hydration, and movement), you can experiment with things like massages, blue-light glasses, ice baths, and anything else that you find on the internet.  Knock yourself out.  But only after the major factors are accounted for.

As you improve your nutrition, your hydration, and your rest, your ability to recover from exercise improves; but recovery will always take time.  Matching your activity to your recovery is the key to avoiding overtraining.  Push the limits, recover, and repeat.

Conclusion

            Overtraining is real, but it’s not some mystical or inexplicable disease that occurs randomly (or every four weeks).  It’s simply a combination of (largely controllable) factors inherent in physical activity.  Just do whatever you feel, with no thought to proper organization of training and recovery, and you will always deal with over (or under) training.  Organize your training and recovery, and you can take performance to the next level without fear of overtraining.

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