I recently turned 30. I'm not old by any means but this means I'm officially not a kid any more (thought I still feel like one most of the time). This also means I can't train like I'm 21 anymore and expect to be recovered from one workout to the next. I need to pay attention to training volume, diet and recovery these days and if I miss piece of that puzzle, I begin to fall apart. I have a few general practices I follow in my daily routine and I'd like to share them with you in the hopes of helping to ensure you are recovering fully between workouts.
Recognize over reaching to avoid over training
What most people believe is over training is really just over reaching. In fact, it takes quite a while
and a lot of effort to become truly over trained. Over reaching is when you are beginning to exceed your optimal training volume and you aren't recovering properly. The first sign of this is usually decreased interest and performance during workouts. If you get to the gym one day end the weights feel extra heavy it's usually a good idea to back off that day and just nip it in the bud. This is hard to do sometimes, especially for us gym rats who are generally inclined to just push through it. I can speak from personal experience that if you get to the gym and you really aren't feeling it, you are dragging your ass through the warm up and all the weights feel extra heavy, dome something light and get outta there. Learn to listen to your body. This is the first and most effective step in avoiding injury.
Some other tell tale signs of over reaching include...
Lack of appetite
Loss of libido
Craving sugary foods
A general feeling of overall tiredness
If you are starting to feel a few of these symptoms you should probably back off on your training for a bit. Take an extra rest day, eat a little bit more and relax. Remember that you don't get stronger while you are in the gym. You get stronger while you rest. Nobody ever got weaker from one extra rest day. It takes about three weeks of not doing anything before you start to loose strength so and extra day and even the occasional week off will only do you good from time to time.
Real over training take a long time to achieve. It involves many hours of exercise beyond what the body can recover from. If you start to reach the state of being over trained you will know it. Most people over training will start to develop cold like symptoms, Moodiness, aches and pains, lack of interest in eating, activities and sex. Intense cravings for sugar and often it will be accompanied by weight gain from all the extra cortisol your body will be producing. This is not a fun state to be in. I have been there and my performance plummeted across all aspects of my training and it has taken quite a while to recover from.
If you do become over trained you need to take an immediate week off of training. At least seven days. Make sure you are eating enough and drinking enough water. Get back into the gym slowly and pay close attention to how you feel because it is easily to slip back into the state if you have not allowed yourself to fully recover. Over training leads to injury and should be treated like an injury itself.
Fortunately it takes a long time to reach that state. Most people recognize it when they are in the over reaching stage and are smart enough to back off on time.
As soon as I finish a workout I like to get a quick source of easily digestible carbohydrate and protein into my system as fast as possible. I like to carry a banana and a couple of packets of honey with me to the gym. That way as soon as I finish stretching, I open a banana and some honey and dip that banana into the honey. This is delicious and it gets glucose into my system as right away to replenish my muscles. From there, I usually head to right to lunch or supper where I eat lots of meat and vegetables and some fruit.
It's that easy. A small glucose spike right before leaving the gym via honey and banana and a good quantity of real food as soon as possible. This works great for me, I find that by doing this my recovery is fantastic and I can attack each workout full on.
For some people this is not really that feasible. If you work out at an odd time and it isn't easy to get to a meal right after then I'd recommend bringing a source of protein with you to consume shortly after your workout. First this I'd recommend is real food such as chicken and fruit. Otherwise you may want to look into bringing a natural source protein powder. I know it's not exactly caveman given that it's from dairy and usually pretty processed, however, you do want to take advantage of your window of opportunity and get protien and carbohydrate within half an hour of your workout. Therefore, in this case I do recommend making a concession. Always take your post workout protein with carbohydrate and avoid added fats to maximize absorption.
If you are following the caveman lifestyle then you know the importance of eating properly. Your body functions in relation to the quality of food you put into it. If you eat like crap expect your recovery to be crap as well. So look back over some of my earlier posts and make sure you are putting the right food into our system.
The vast majority of your tissue growth occurs when you are sleeping. You have to make getting
enough sleep such a priority that you are almost willing to kill to get to bed on time. If you don't sleep you won't recover, that's the bottom line. You won't recover and you won't perform well enough to get the results you want. I know lots of people who stay up late playing video games every night and wonder why they feel like crap all the time. And these guys don't even exercise. I can only imagine how they'd feel if they had even a moderate amount of activity from which they'd have to recover.
Make sleeping a priority and see how much better your feel.
You need you down time as well. Look forward to your days off the gym and make the most of them. Take the time to pursue activities you love which are good for your mind and soul. If you do this you will feel invigorated, motivated and happy. Happy, relaxed people have more energy so take time to relax and do something you love every day.
These are my rules of recovery and I apply them to every workout. Take the time to place more emphasis on the things that will help you recover as well and it will not only benefit your workouts but you will have more energy and get more enjoyment out of you day to day activities as well.