Training Session vs Rest Day – What should you do?

Recognising and preventing over training is essential to athletic performance. Over training is more than normal fatigue. Overtraining is a gradual process, it does not happen overnight. It may be that the person starts to have technique issues, their performance may decline, onset of persistent joint niggles and muscle soreness, decrease in appetite, more highly susceptible to colds, lethargy, irritable and restless sleep are all signs of overtraining. You may think I am just talking about professional athletes and that the ‘weekend athlete’ or the young upcoming athletes are not susceptible to overtraining, but you are.

Youth makes us incredibly resiliant to many things and we are able to push ourselves without the negative side effects that we feel as we age. Being able to push yourself in training when you are young is vital to increasing athletic performance, but as you train harder this will mean an equal increase in the length of time spent training and eventually there will become a point of diminished returns, where an increase in training does not lead to an increase in performance.

Today we are all very busy and we all know taking regular exercise is vital to overall health and wellbeing. But let’s look at our lives; full time stressful jobs, children to look after, houses to run, endless jobs and chores. Does this sound familiar? Now try to fit in several training sessions per week and it sometimes feels an impossible task, especially if you have signed up to a race and you are feeling the pressure to compete. Again pushing yourself in training is good as this is the only way we improve but we all need to learn to read the signs and listen to our bodies. If you start to exhibit any of the symptoms of overtraining, then you should ask yourself the question, ‘should I really train?’

With any training quality will always come over quantity. You can work to functional fatigue, whereas you are tired but still able to maintain technique the problems arise when you force yourself to work into a state of functional failure whereby you lose technique. If we equate this to tri training we all know that swimming is very heavily technique based, if you swim to failure you will lose your technique and it only takes 300 repetitions of the same movement to train a faulty movement pattern into your body but 3000 perfect repetitions to re-train it back. So pushing yourself in the swim when you know you are in failure can hinder your athletic performance.

Recovery after exercise is essential to muscle and tissue repair and strength building. This is even more critical after a heavy training session where the stress of training produces micro tears and swelling within the muscle. A muscle needs anywhere from 24 to 48 hours to repair and rebuild, and working the same muscle group again too soon simply leads to tissue breakdown instead of building. If you continue to train without allowing adequate repair time then the eventual outcome will be breakdown of that muscle which will reduce the strength and endurance qualities that you are trying so hard to train into it. This also leaves you open for an injury as the muscles and surrounding joints, fascia, tendons and ligaments will find it hard to stabilise against the forces you are putting through it and the eventual outcome could be an injury.

How do you recover?

  1. Eat properly, I advise to eat some protein after your session in the time it takes your sweat to dry, so pretty quickly!! I advise the use of Great Lakes collagen powder as it can be mixed into a hot or cold drink and is easily assimilated into the body unlike a lot of protein shakes

  2. Stretch or use the foam roller

  3. Hydrate – Bottled water with a pinch of organic unprocessed sea salt

  4. An active rest session – see below

  5. Sleep


How much recovery should you schedule in?

This can never be set in stone. We all respond and adapt to training in different ways, so many external factors can affect your recovery rate, so the best way is to listen to your body. It will tell you when you need to take a rest. If you feel tired, sore or notice a decrease in your performance then you may need to take some recovery. If you have had a rest day and train and still feel tired, then rest again. Do not think that taking a rest day will affect your training in a negative a manner it will only help it. This is a hard concept to grasp, especially for people who are short on time to train so feel guilt for missing the limited sessions they can attend. Rest allows your body to fully repair and be able to take on any new training at full strength and get the full benefit from follow on sessions.

Active Rest Sessions

Some people find it hard to totally rest, in terms of doing ‘nothing’. For a very active person then active rest sessions are a good way to go. Active rest refers to another low level sport or activity other than the one you are recovering from. This may be a yoga, pilates or a core session. A walk in the countryside, a sports massage, sauna or ice bath. Relaxation or stretching session. All of these could be seen as active rest as you are allowing the major muscle groups to rest and repair. For an active person to completely stop can sometimes make them feel flat and despondent but taking an active rest session gives them a stimulus.

To sum up, listen to your body and look out for the signs and symptoms and do what suits you, not what the person next to you is doing. Don’t be afraid to rest and use recovery sessions as part of your weekly training regime.

Emma Spence

CHEK Practictioner Level 1

CHEK Exercise Coach

CHEK Holistic Lifestyle Coach Level 2

Reps Level 3 Personal Trainer