5 Zeichen das deine Erholung nicht optimal ist

5 signs that your recovery is not optimal

Malte Wagenbach

Recovery. Yeah, that's "not sexy." Rest days? Foam rolling? Relief? Stretching? Just boring...

Most people would love to go to the gym day after day, because that's the only way to see results, right?

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Maybe not. Or even certainly not!

The truth is, no matter how hard your fitness program is, how often you work out, or how good your diet is, if your recovery is poor, your health, your energy, and your results will suffer. And worst of all, you might lose the fun of exercising!

And not-so-good recovery can be the reason why.... 

  • You don't achieve success in the gym
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  • you don't lose the last few pounds - but maybe even gain weight
  • you're exhausted all the time
  • you constantly struggle with sore muscles, stiffness, and recurring injuries

In this article, we'll go over five common signs that you should rethink your recovery routine, and two simple solutions that will help you recover faster. And more importantly - Don't let negative experiences ruin your enjoyment of exercise!

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What is recovery anyway?

Most people's understanding of "recreation" is probably something like this:

"... Recovery is when I no longer have sore muscles. It's when I can work out again and feel good about it."

So you roll out of bed, shake out your legs, and they don't feel so bad. Your shoulders don't feel tight or restricted. Your eyes aren't overly droopy. So you hit the gym. 

You're refreshed, right?

Not quite. Those are just arbitrary statements about how your body feels.

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Recovery in the scientific sense is the body's ability to restore its physical and mental processes. 

So the goal of recovery is not to go to bed with sore muscles, wake up "refreshed" and go back to working out at 50% capacity. The goal of recovery is to refresh and restore your muscles, tissues and ligaments so you can match and even exceed your previous performance. 

This is the true definition of "growth."

Now that you know what recovery actually is, let's get into how to find out if your recovery routine is affecting your performance.

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5 signs that your recovery is underperforming

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1) Your performance is stagnant or declining

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If your athletic performance is no longer improving despite proper training and nutrition, it may be time to take a look at your recovery routine

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If your recovery is poor, your workouts are ineffective and you're wasting your time and energy. You're basically training for the sake of training, with no change or improvement in your performance

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It's like you're a hamster in a wheel, running at full speed and not progressing.

Too little rest means you never get faster, better, or stronger - even though you work out for hours.

That's the definition of insanity, too,

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The most important thing is that you recover properly so that your body can perform at its best and your results don't flatten out.

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2) You gain weight despite performing well

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If you work out too much or don't recover properly between workouts, your body tends to go into what's called "fight or flight" mode. 

This state is characterized by an over-activation of the sympathetic nervous system, which stimulates the adrenal glands to release stress hormones like cortisol.

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"Fight or flight" is a useful physiological state when you need to flee from a hungry tiger in the jungle, for example. But when it comes to your recovery, it's not ideal.

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It can be especially damaging to your waistline if you have elevated cortisol levels day after day because you're working out too much and not getting enough rest.¹

The chronically elevated cortisol levels you get from working out too much and recovering too little can even contribute to weight gain in several ways, for example

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It increases your appetite, especially for sugary and carbohydrate foods²

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Influences certain hormones that help you build muscle and burn fat

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Switching metabolism to fat storage by down-regulating thyroid activity⁴.

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When you rest and recover properly, you reduce your body's stress load, lower your cortisol levels, and put your nervous system into a parasympathetic "rest and digest" state. 

And it's in this parasympathetic state that you can truly reap the rewards of your workouts.

In the recovery phase, your body signals for a series of repair mechanisms to take place and for your thyroid and metabolism to be upregulated.

This way, you can more easily build muscle and burn fat during the recovery phase-and isn't that the goal? 

3) You're excessively tired or exhausted

If you've ever done a strenuous workout, fatigue and exhaustion are likely to be the result. Many people love the feeling of accomplishment when they're slaving away at the gym, and after feeling the burn, they pass out on the couch in the middle of a Netflix show, jeans still on and drool running down their face.

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Okay, that's a little dramatic. But you get the point. Fatigue after a workout is normal.... To a certain degree. 

What's not normal, however, is when fatigue creeps into your daily life

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When it becomes impossible to get out of bed. When you reach for that third or fourth cup of coffee to get through the workday. 

When you come home from a normal day at work, but feel completely exhausted. 

When you can't motivate yourself to exercise because you're so tired. And in very extreme cases, when you can't fall asleep at night (aptly described as "tired but awake")

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This extreme fatigue can be associated with poor athletic recovery and may be related to cortisol levels (mentioned above) being elevated for extended periods of time. 

After a while, your receptors become less sensitive to cortisol, and your body's energy-generating system (called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, or HPA axis) stops working properly.⁵ This makes you feel exhausted and burned out.⁶

Not exactly a recipe for peak human performance.

4) Low heart rate variability

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It may come as a surprise, but a healthy heartbeat is actually somewhat irregular, meaning that each beat does not necessarily occur at the same interval.

Instead of beating like this, it beats, for example

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lub-dub ... lub-dub ... lub-dub ... lub-dub ...

In reality, a healthy heart beats like this:

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lub-dub ....... lub-dub .. lub-dub .... lub-dub ...

The way we measure changes in the rhythm of the heartbeat is called heart rate variability (HRV). 

Measuring your HRV is one of the best ways to determine if your body is stressed, and in general, the higher your HRV (measured with HRV devices from 0-100), the more rested and ready to exercise you are.⁷

For example, when the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, it releases acetylcholine to induce a low heart rate and a state of relaxation. Your heart rate is highest at this time, and a high heart rate indicates a low state of stress.

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On the other hand, if you are over-trained and not well rested or sleep-deprived, the healthy beat-to-beat variation of your heart rhythm will decrease, indicating low HRV.

Even if you don't have an HRV meter, you can detect this phenomenon by feeling your pulse on your neck or wrist. 

You should feel that the longest intervals occur when you exhale (parasympathetic) and the shortest intervals occur when you inhale (sympathetic)

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In other words:

A high HRV (~90+ on one device) means that the intervals between heartbeats are highly variable, indicating that you are well rested and recovered.

A low HRV (<60 on one device) or an HRV that jumps from day to day means that the variability of your heartbeat intervals is low, which could indicate that you are overtrained and not recovered.

Monitoring HRV is a great way to find out how your body is actually recovering, even though you might not be feeling great.

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5) You're constantly sore, stiff, or injured

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Yes, we know your basketball coach often repeated the ultra motivational phrase "No pain, no gain" in school. While that may be true for a spry 15-year-old, the last thing most of us want to deal with as we age is excess muscle soreness, stiffness, or recurring injuries.

Let's talk specifically about sore muscles.

DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) is a mystery to scientists, but it is thought to be related to an inflammatory response that increases the sensitivity of nerve endings in the connective tissue of muscles.⁸

Normally, DOMS occurs 1-2 days after exercise and causes muscle soreness, pain, stiffness, and in some cases, increased risk of injury.

Contrary to what Coach Jackson told you in basketball training, there is no evidence that muscle soreness indicates increased muscle damage or hypertrophy (i.e., better "gains"). 

In fact, research has shown that both high- and low-muscle soreness training programs result in similar gains in muscle mass.⁹

In other words, muscle soreness is not a prerequisite for greater performance or muscle gains.

A little muscle soreness never hurt anyone, but being constantly sore, stiff, or injured is not only annoying and painful, it could also mean your body needs a break from hard training. 

Instead of torturing yourself through the pain, you might need more active or passive recovery. Try foam rolling, stretching, or light exercise to break up the inflammatory buildup in your muscles

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Key points and a simple recovery solution

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In summary, if you have any of the following problems:

, you should reconsider the importance of your recovery routine.

  • Performance plateaus
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  • Resistance to weight loss
  • Tiredness
  • Low heart rate variability
  • Frequent muscle soreness, stiffness, or injury


Scientific Research

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  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16353426
  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21294656
  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19300426
  1. https://hypothyroidmom.com/cortisol-and-thyroid-hormones/
  1. https://www.mind-body-health.net/hpa-axis.shtml
  1. https://www.mind-body-health.net/burnout.shtml
  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5900369/
  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6392811
  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29489727

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