If you’re a bit hardcore about your training then you’ll be familiar with the concept of pushing yourself relentlessly and having feelings of guilt if you take a day off. Sure, ‘no pain, no gain’ motto can make you work harder, train more, and help you avoid skipping a session. But that same mindset can also leave you burnt out and injured.
You need to be mindful that your wellbeing determines your state of readiness for exercise. For example, if you visit the gym for a heavy leg session and it’s at the end of a stressful day at work where you’ve eaten junk food and not drunk enough water during the day, then your body will be in a pre-stressed state. Similarly, if you consistently train at very high intensities you could actually be getting less-than-optimal results as a result of the lack of opportunities for adequate recovery.
The Importance Of Recovery And Regeneration
Recovery and regeneration is often overlooked when it comes to fitness programming, but it’s a critical determinant of how effective your training is, and an influential factor on the results you’ll obtain.
Depending on your overall fitness level and perhaps your genetic makeup, your body can sometimes take longer than you think to recover from high intensity training. Below is an example of the ideal recovery time you need after intense endurance training, which has been extracted from Kuno Hottenrott’s book Training with the Heart Rate Monitor. As you’ll see, it shows that it can sometimes takes weeks for your immune system to recover, and even longer for mental recovery.
So how do you know if you’re overtraining or under-recovering, and what is the right intensity for you?
Start by imagining you’re a car. Yes, you can pick a Porsche or a Ferrari, but in reality some of us are built more like a bus or maybe even an ice cream van!
Once you’ve chosen your car, think of your engine as your cardiac fitness – remembering that engines come in varying sizes. Regardless of make or model, we each have five gears within our gearbox and we need to use all of them every day, depending on what we are trying to achieve on that day (i.e. your goal), and taking into consideration the conditions and the terrain (i.e. the environment). Each gear within your body requires a slightly different fuel source (e.g. glycogen, fatty acids, ATP, PC). Now let’s say you needed to get to a destination that was 200km away; if you shift straight into fifth gear then you may have great speed but would run out of gas/petrol before you reach your destination.
However, if you stay in first gear the whole way then you would eventually get there, but it would be a very slow journey. This is exactly how your energy system works – you have to use all five gears. Training in one gear all the time is incomplete; after all, what would happen to your car if you drove at high speeds (i.e. fifth gear) all the time? It would be difficult to turn corners, you’d probably crash regularly, and your tyres would be bald – in anatomical speak, you’d be experiencing overuse injuries!
Let’s Get Practical!
Wouldn’t it be great if there was a practical way to see how ready you are to train each day and at what intensity you should be training?
Well guess what? There is! The Personal Training Academy (PTA) has created a tool for trainers and the wider fitness industry to use, which is called PTA Global Gears & Goals™.
This scientifically developed energy system chart will help you define the best gear (i.e. heart rate percentage) for you to train in, depending on whether your goal is fat loss, muscle gain, sports performance or wellness. It also takes into account your wellbeing and overall readiness for exercise. Applying this tool will ensure you get the results you want, without the risk of overtraining or under-recovering.
Currently the most accurate way to determine which gear you are training in is to measure your heart rate percentage. This is most accurately done using a heart rate monitor. Alternatively, if you don’t train with a heart rate monitor you can use a Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale, such as the following:
|Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) Scale|
|Gear||How you are feeling during exercise|
|5||Help, ready to die now, can we please stop?|
|4||Phew, this is getting really hard – how much longer?|
|3||Yep feeling it now – starting to get short of breath|
|2||OK, starting to feel it now, but it’s still pretty easy|
|1||Barely feeling it – I could do this all day!|
Once you’ve worked out what gear you’re training in, it’s then time to apply it to the below PTA Global Daily Readiness & Programming Chart (adapted from the PTA Global Tool called Dr O – Daily Readiness Screen)™.
Rate your Readiness (column 1) by scoring yourself in the four areas of sleep, diet/water, aches/pain and mood.
Compare this score to the Wellbeing Scale (column 2). Note: they should match.
Next, refer to which Heart Rate Gear (column 3) and Heart Rate Percentage (column 4) is most appropriate for you to train in on this day. Typically, it will match your Readiness and Wellbeing scores.
This doesn’t mean you can’t go into a higher gear or heart rate percentage, but you should consider limiting the time you spend in those higher gears because doing so may mean you are creating more stress than your system can handle on this particular day.
The key is to listen to your body every day, and use this chart to find your ideal training intensity. A training regime that takes into account recovery and regeneration will yield better results, fewer injuries and less burnout.
To learn more about this and other amazing tools check out PTA Global’s Behaviour Change In Exercise Credential