You can slog through hours of exercise but there are three main components that’ll help you achieve optimal strength, health and body composition.
How you eat and train are two of them, but the third is often forgotten because it’s neither sexy nor fun. However, recovery is the barrier between you and your dream body because continuing to train in an under-recovered state impedes your fitness goals and can set you up for overreaching, overtraining and even adrenal fatigue.
The surest way to make week-on-week exercise improvements is to guarantee your recovery is on point. Here’s how to tell if you’re doing it right.
1. Touch a sore spot
Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is the result of microscopic tearing in your muscles’ fibers, which occurs during weight training. This is a normal response to exercise, but it can increase your risk of injury, and persistent DOMS can be a sign of overreaching and overtraining.
2. Falling short
You can’t break personal bests in every session but prolonged underperformance or a sudden regression in your strength levels typically means you’re not recovering optimally. If you’re hitting the gym and not progressing, or, even worse, regressing, it tends to be a sign you may need to take it easy for a bit and allow your body time to recover.
3. On the sick list
Exercise boosts your immune system but intense training can do the opposite and set you up for increased susceptibility to illness. Often times, if you’re under-recovered, you might not get sick but may feel like you’re about to. If you’re getting consistent unexplained sniffles, headaches, nausea, diarrhea and a sore throat, it could be a sign of under-recovery.
4. Moody blues
Apathy, mood swings, depression, sudden irritability or heightened anxiety can often be signals of fatigue, illness or under- recovery. Plus, they tend to correlate with periods of underperformance in the gym.
5. Energy crisis
This one can be tricky because lots of factors impact your energy levels, but it’s worth learning how to distinguish between low motivation coming from being under- recovered or low motivation due to non- physical factors like laziness or stress. The best gauge is to start to exercise, get through your warm-up and see how you feel. If you’re still tired, you’re probably under-recovered.
– READ MORE: What Are Intra-Workout Supplements And How Do You Use Them? –
6. In deep water
Your body depends upon water for survival, since it’s the main component of blood. We lose water daily, through the obvious sweating, but also when we do things like go to the can and even breathe. Dehydration inhibits recovery, your immunity system, nutrient absorption and exercise performance. The best way to assess your own body’s hydration levels is by the color of your urine. The goal is a pale to slightly yellow shade.
7. Off your food
An unexplained decrease in appetite is an indicator of under-recovery, an overly high training load and fatigue. This can be a vicious cycle, like sleep, because it can result in consistent amino acid, fatty acid and hormone depletion. If you’re usually hungry but suddenly not, it can mean you’re under-recovered.
8. Weighting game
A rapid drop in bodyweight can often indicate an inability to recover from intense training. Monitoring your pre-breakfast weight can help you to gauge your recovery. Lots of factors affect your weight, like your hydration status, the number of carbs you’ve consumed and sodium intake. So make sure you analyze changes in weight while keeping in mind these other variables.
9. Put it to sleep
If you find you’re having trouble getting to sleep at night, waking up earlier than usual, or even later than normal, or waking up frequently during the night, it could mean you’re recovering poorly. Having a restless night can mean you’ve depleted the anabolic hormones that are integral for muscle repair and recovery, or that your cortisol levels are too high. Lack of sleep is a vicious cycle – the more under-recovered you are, the worse you sleep, and the worse you sleep, the less recovered you’ll get.
10. Heart of the matter
Sports scientists have long linked fluctuations in resting heart rate to overreaching or overtraining. It’s not an exact science because elevated heart rate can indicate training stress, but it could also mean you’ve just had a hard day at the office. In other words, it’s an indicator of stress, but not necessarily training stress.
However, you can track your resting heart rate and analyze variations to get an idea of whether or not your body is stressed and then adjust your training accordingly. Monitor it first thing in the morning, using the simple stopwatch and fingertip method. Variations of about 5% are common, but anything greater than that usually indicates a state of stress or fatigue.
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