What Your Trainer Wishes You Knew About Overreaching & The Importance Of Recovery
What is recovery?
The balance of training and recovery in a training programme is an important factor in the success or failure of your training goals. Recovery is “regaining what was lost”; simplified as returning an athlete to a pre-training level.
The process of recovery allows an athlete to undertake more work, as well as enhancing their capacity to work more efficiently and encourage greater adaptation to training....basically your body adjusting to the muscle recruitment and performance of exercises.
What happens when you train a lot?
When you train, your body fatigues and this leads to short term underperformance; however this is usually followed by appropriate recovery time, supercompensation and then performance is enhanced.
If you keep on training under fatigue without adequate recovery, overreaching and overtraining can occur.
Overreaching is an accumulation of stress resulting in a decrease in short term performance; stressors can be both sport and non-sport related. What this means in practical terms is that although you may have not been training much, but let’s say work is forcing you into extra hours or the kids are keeping you up… that contributes to overreaching as your body only has a limited amount of resources to use.
Why overreaching can sometimes be ok....for elite athletes
Following overreaching, restoring your performance capacities can take several days or weeks, depending on how long and how strong the stressors are in your life.
There are times when planned overreaching may be appropriate, however this is a strategy generally only used by elite athletes with a small window of adaptation.
Verkoshansky (1985, 1989) stated that performing similar training sequences, one after the other resulted in excessive fatigue initially. However, when normal training resumed, they found significant performance enhancements beyond baseline values.
This was supported by Fry et al. (2000) who demonstrated significant performance enhancements in young weightlifters following a planned high volume, overreaching phase.
How to avoid overreaching in your training
Whilst you may subscribe to the 'Go Hard or Go Home' mantra and know that overreaching is a useful tool for gaining adaptation, remember that adequate recovery time is key.
Overreaching without adequate recovery time can lead to overtraining which can sometimes lead to injury, underperformance, frequent infections and negative psychological changes.
In order to avoid overtraining, monitoring your training and performance. If you find that you are not developing overtime or have hit a plateau, it's likely that you can be overreaching.