Rest & Recovery 4/5: Training Load

“You’re not over-training. You’re under-recovering” – anonymous

‘Super-compensation’. Borrowed from Wikipedia

Training too much, is that even a thing?

Yeah, it is. Training as a process, is stressful on the body. It’s a controlled way of exposing ourselves to certain types of stress (ie. neurological, muscular, cardiovascular etc.) which we then recover from, and as a result we become stronger / fitter / faster and the like. There’s a symbiotic nature between stress and recovery, and the better we can align the quantities of the two, the better we can become

The problem arises when we lose the balance between them. In earlier parts of this series we’ve looked at how we can optimise certain broad areas that affect our recovery (Nutrition, Sleep, Lifestyle). In this part we’re looking specifically at Training Load.

So, to simplify – If you train MORE than you can recover from, you’re doing yourself damage in the long run.

Likewise, if you don’t train ENOUGH, then you won’t be causing enough stress to actually affect any change…

So we’re looking to find the optimal balance for you as an individual…

What Are The Common Fails?

  • Training too much
  • Training too little
  • Subscribing to ‘the grind’ mentality
  • Training without intention

Why do YOU train?

Review Yourself

Ask yourself – ‘Why do I train?’

Take a piece of lined A4 paper and write down as many reason as possible that describe why you train. Sit and stew on this for a bit and allow as many reasons as possible to flow into the paper (it’s OK, no one’s going to read it but you). Use another piece of paper if you need. Just this process alone is incredibly insightful when it comes to aligning our ‘wants’ with our ‘habits’

Is it relevant to my goals?

Once you’ve defined why it is you’re training, you then want to ask yourself if what you’re doing in the gym is ACTUALLY in line with those goals… To some this can seem silly, as training is training. Right? Wrong. You might be training for strength, mobility, to become pain-free, to run a marathon, to socialise with the people you like at the 515pm class, to be fit for your kids, to rehab an injury you have, to learn BJJ, to be able to balance on your hands… These are potentially all different types of training and will require a different process. Ponder that for a bit

Am I doing enough to get a result?

Are you actually doing enough work consistently in order to reach your goals? Maybe. Maybe not… If you wan’t to learn to do a chin up, you’re going to need to commit at least one, if not two sessions per week to upper body pulling. Likewise if you want to learn BJJ – once a week probably isn’t going to be quite enough to get a grasp on it initially. Are you training for weight loss? In that case you might just need to get to a couple of strength and one conditioning class per week. The point here is that you need to look at your training Volume to know if it’s enough to elicit a response. This will vary from person to person. If in doubt about whether you’re doing enough or not, ask a coach for their advice

Am i doing ENOUGH to get a result?

Am I doing too much?

Could you be training too much? If you work hard in most areas of your life, and you enjoy the grind, then yes, it’s highly likely you may be. This commitment is a good quality (everyone loves a hard worker), however if you’re training too much, in the long run you’re not going to get any better. What will probably happen is that you’ll be constantly layed-up with injuries and sickness. Some signs you’re potentially doing too much:

  • You’re constantly sore
  • You seem to get sick quite often
  • You feel run down most days
  • No amount of sleep is ever enough
  • You feel flat and de-motivated
  • You’re not seeing progress in your training (is. movement ability or increased weight on the bar)
  • Lowered sex drive
  • You’re grouchy and irritable

If you feel this may be you, simply conduct an experiment on yourself. Try this: reduce your training load by 20-25% (if you train 5 times per week, cut it back to 4), and focus on improving a couple of other areas mentioned in this series. Track how you feel and you perform in the gym over the next month or two and then make a call on if it helped or not

What’s realistic? What are my competing obligations?

Simply put, are you setting realistic goals for yourself? Sometimes in the excitement of starting a new gym program we can reach for the stars. If you’re 19 years old, living at home, working part time, and mums still cooking your meals, go for it! If you’re in your 40s, supporting a family, running a business, and dealing with a couple of old sports injuries – you’ll probably benefit from setting the bar a bit lower for yourself…

Not to put a damper on things, but in reality, if you have these other areas of your life that require your attention (partner, children, business etc), then it only leaves you with so much time to put towards your training. Recognise this, set the bar a bit lower, and go about achieving your targets. If you find that a few months in you can do a bit more, that’s great!


What are 2-3 things you can take action on NOW to improve your training load?


*write these down on a sheet of paper and stick that puppy up on your fridge


In Part 5 of the series we discuss ‘Breath, Meditation and other ways to down regulate… This will be the final instalment of the rest and recovery series


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