How quickly the various systems in the body recover completely after a workout or competition varies greatly from individual to individual. Here are the factors you need to consider to get the correct amount of recovery in training.
Tips for the “right” recovery time
“The legs would have wanted to come back after three weeks, but mentally it would have taken three months,” said a world-class marathon runner after a marathon. Her muscles had felt recovered relatively quickly, but her hormonal and immune systems, as well as her passive musculoskeletal system, took months.
How quickly the various systems in the body recover completely after a workout or competition varies greatly from individual to individual. The time span ranges from a few hours (casual training) to several weeks or even months (Ironman, marathon). In addition to the athletic requirement, it is important to differentiate according to biological factors such as age, gender, performance level and individuality. The following factors influence the recovery capacity and the correct amount of recovery time:
- Goal setting
- Recovery status after intense training sessions or competitions and their influence on baseline endurance (fat burning capacity)
- Nutritional status not only in terms of glycogen stores in muscle, but also in terms of all essential nutrients such as minerals, vitamins, trace elements, phytochemicals, amino acids and high-quality fats
- Ability to concentrate on training and the upcoming competition without additional stress from work or private life
- Targeted build-up over months without disruption of the build-up due to injuries, illnesses or other adversities
During the training
- Intensity and volume of training
- Temperature and humidity (weather)
- Exercise technology
- Training terrain (ground conditions, slope)
- Training time (early morning, late evening)
- Drinking and eating habits
After the training
- Active and passive regeneration measures (e.g. cool down, recovery tools, ice baths, massage)
- Sleep quality and quantity
- Drinking and eating behavior
In addition, we also distinguish whether an athlete is a beginner or a competitive athlete when asking about correct amount of recovery. While the beginner requires significantly more recovery time, an experienced athlete can reload more quickly.
Many athletes do multiple workouts on the same day. This combining of training sessions is typically reserved for experienced athletes. In principle, intense sessions can be combined with easy sessions. For example, a relaxed session after a high intensity interval workout. In addition to the intensity, the duration should also be kept low. An excessively long endurance session with pre-fatigued muscles can harm technique and puts significantly more strain on secondary systems such as ligaments, cartilage, and tendons. Conversely, a long endurance training session before a high intensity training session makes the latter ineffective, since you wont have sufficient energy to fully utilize the muscles. Amateur athletes should therefore complete independent training sessions with sufficient time between them to be on the safe side. Or, for a combined endurance and strength workout, perform a station workout.
Get to know your body’s responses!
A certain amount of training experience is imperative when choosing the individually optimal recovery time. Not starting too early with the next workout requires awareness of your body, courage, knowledge, experience, and the certainty that you will get better during the breaks (supercompensation). The patience to first build up the basic endurance as the basis of any top performance over months, and only then to integrate the necessary intense sessions, is a crucial building block of success and the cornerstone for a balanced recovery state.
After a hard workout or competition, ask yourself the following questions before getting back into training:
- Am I one hundred percent healthy?
- Am I in a good mood, full of energy and optimistic?
- Do I feel no pressure to train and is the training fun?
- Am I full of energy when I get up and motivated for the next training session?
- Can I plan the build-up in a calm and relaxed manner?
- Do I see my goals clearly in front of me?
If the answers to these questions are positive, you can be sure that recovery has taken place. Whether this takes hours, weeks or even months in individual cases, no one knows exactly and depends on the interaction of the factors mentioned above. As a basic rule, there are hardly any athletes who take too long to recover, but countless who often return to training too hard too soon.
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