Coach Andy shares some insight into monitoring your recovery and readiness.
In a previous blog post about one of the fundamentals of training, I introduced the equation:
Stress + Rest = Progress (in this context, rest and recovery are interchangeable).
I'd like to add the following condition:
Over the long haul, Recovery > Stress
If your maximal recoverable ability is exceeded, over time, your progress will stall, injuries will crop up, and your health may suffer.
This ability to recover from a training load is variable. It changes week to week, month to month, mainly due to the total daily stressors the body and brain have to deal with.
How do you know if you're flirting with under-recovery?
Prolonged muscle soreness can be an indicator that its time to back off a bit...but not always.
The musculoskeletal system is only one of the many systems in the body that is stressed during training.
The endocrine system (hormones), internal organs, and the nervous system are also working hard during exercise.
Whats, more, this group doesn't get to rest after your training session is over.
They are continually labouring to detoxify and repair and rebuild your body long after you put your barbell away.
There's saying that plays off of the idea of the classic bodybuilding training splits, i.e. today is Upper Body Day or Lower Body Day:
"Every day is Kidney day."
Keeping these other systems in mind makes sense when trying to determine your body's response to the current training load.
Below is a broader list of signs that may point to under-recovery.
Autonomic Hormonal-Based Multi-Day trends:
- Joint stiffness
- Water retention
- Sinus congestion
- Water retention- puffiness under eyes, or swollen feet or hands
- Abdominal (gut) bloating
- Dry, itchy skin
- A decrease in body temperature
Performance-based Multi-Day trends:
- Decreased power output at a similar load
- Decreased force output at a similar load
- Reduced time to fatigue at the same pace
- Increased Rate of Perceived Effort (RPE) at a similar task
How can I measure recovery/readiness to train?
Some folks like to have a number they can point at to help them decide 'Go' or 'No Go.'
Wearable technologies can help provide objective measures of your 'Readiness' to train, namely those that measure your HRV (Heart Rate Variability).
The accuracy of these devices will vary, as each brand uses its proprietary algorithms (plus there isn't a consensus in the exercise science field agree what 'Readiness' looks like represented by 1s and 0s.)
Studies show that over time, a short questionnaire (similar to the one you'll find on the Trainheroic app) is as good as any currently available technology for measuring Readiness (provided you link your subjective trends with performance trends).
Most useful questionnaires cover the qualities below in some fashion:
- Sleep quality
- Energy levels
How do I improve my recoverable ability?
If you find your Readiness questionnaire scores are trending low, you can do a couple of things:
Adjust your training load:
- Decrease volume/tonnage
- Take some time off from the high output stuff. Do some low load, low impact, low stress, movement practice.
Increase your ability to recover by sorting out the other 23 hours in your day:
- Improve sleep hygiene
- Sort out diet
- Decrease the stress levels where you can.
- Deal with your chronic or acute pain or injury